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Girls’ LEAP’s mission is to empower girls and young women to value and champion their own safety and well-being.


Girls’ LEAP (Lifetime Empowerment & Awareness Program) is the premier girls' empowerment organization in Greater Boston.  We provide self-defense and empowerment programs to girls aged 8-18 in every neighborhood in Boston and in Greater Boston. Annually, we serve 1,000 girls, and 50% of our programs are delivered in Dorchester.  


We partner with schools and community agencies to deliver our programs. We do this to reach girls in their own neighborhoods. Our innovative programs teach both physical self-defense and self-reflective, socio-emotional skills. This powerful combination empowers girls to learn conflict resolution, violence de-escalation and self-confidence. 


Programs are taught by female, intergenerational mentoring teams of an adult teacher, college mentors/assistants and teen mentors/assistants. This teaching model supports the development of near-age, mentoring relationships and models multiple stages of women’s leadership development.


Girls’ LEAP began as a community response to a wave of sexual assaults against women and girls in Cambridge in 1995.  LEAP was co-founded by Deborah Weaver, faculty member in the Department of Physical Education, Recreation, and Athletics at Wellesley College and Peggy Barrett, Education Director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and former Director of the Women’s Center at Tufts University, both Cambridge residents at the time.  Discovering that there was no programming available to teach young girls how to protect themselves, the two women founded Girls’ LEAP.

After research into the types of programs that worked and why, the 20-hour Girls’ LEAP curriculum was carefully constructed to meet the physical and socio-emotional needs of girls. Girls’ LEAP delivered its first programs in 1997 and incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit in 2000.  

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