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New Jersey Justice Collaboratives for Girls*

*cis and trans girls, young women, and gender-expansive youth

The Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) Division on Women (DOW) initiative to build the capacity of communities across the state to reduce the exposure of cis and trans girls, young women, and gender-expansive young people to sexual violence through increasing opportunities for them to develop leadership and advocacy skills.


The New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Division on Women (NJDCF-DOW), recognize that the prevalence of sexual violence is a health epidemic which transcends race, age, gender, sex, religion, and socio-economic status. As such, the state has committed funds to specifically address the statewide prevention of sexual violence at both the individual/relational and community levels of the socio-ecological model. Justice + Joy was chosen to implement an evidence based/informed curriculum and a community action plan, which seeks to decrease risk and increase protective factors at the community level. 

The initiative is split into three phases:

The first phase consisted of listening sessions and a field scan with "girls" and direct program providers that helped identify the need for a social justice framework that combines advocacy, leadership, and anti-oppression work and opportunities incorporated into organizational programming. This type of programming shatters the limitations of traditional gender role expectations and is found to support "girls" in recognizing and using their own power to achieve their goals. 

The second phase involved a deeper dive, with the creation of a report that delineates demographic information for each county in New Jersey by region and has an analysis of current “girl”-led programs in the state. Through that analysis and additional listening sessions with “girls” and providers, we determined specific thematic gaps in programming.

The third and current phase of work focuses on providing technical assistance to local New Jersey young people, organizations, and advocates in the formation and facilitation of regional collaborations designed to reduce the exposure of cis and trans girls and gender-expansive young people to sexual violence. This is done by increasing their advocacy and leadership skills through the incorporation of customized girl-led program models. Through technical assistance and training provided by a team of nationally-recognized experts, the “Core Team” will support collaborations with building the capacity of current New Jersey organizations and will provide opportunities for the engagement of new organizations and individuals in this work. These “girl”-led and informed approaches address topics like adultism, intersectionality, and adaptive leadership. Throughout this process, a Youth Advisory Committee works alongside our Core Team to ensure our approaches are in line with their needs.  

The NJJCG Youth Advisory Board, recently hosted a live virtual panel to discuss how movements can be authentically youth driven. The NGO CSW Forum is the civil society gathering that runs parallel to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The webinar was a success and it was so inspiring to listen as members of the Youth Advisory Board shared their experiences in their own New Jersey organizing work and what they hope other youth-centered movements will embody. Watch the recording of the panel here!

We were also recently featured in Chalkbeat Newark. Read the article here!

This project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via Rape Prevention Education grant funds, administered by the NJ Department of Children & Families, Division on Women.

Project Partners

Dr. Shabnam Javdani, Associate Professor and Associate Director – New York University Prison Education Program and ROSES Program

Dr. Linda Lausell-Bryant, Clinical Associate Professor, Master Teacher
Katherine and Howard Aibel Visiting Professor and Executive-in-Residence - New York University Silver School of Social Work

Girls for a Change, I am Why, The Lighthouse:  Black Girls Project, Young Women’s Freedom Center

Wakumi Douglas, Co-Founder, SOUL Sisters Leadership Collective & 2020 Soros Fellow

Learn more about how we focus on policy and system change, liberation in practice, and collaborative research and innovative thought.