Founded by Dr. Amy Rutstein-Riley in 2008, The Girlhood Project has impacted more than 150 girls from surrounding Greater Boston Area communities along with over 200 college students from Lesley University. This multidimensional program provides college students with a diverse theoretical and academic background in order to facilitate creative activities that honor the uniqueness of each girl.
The Girlhood Project, located on the Doble campus of Lesley University, runs a weekly girls' group over the course of eight weeks each spring. Middle school girls collaborate with Lesley University students to engage in the examination of critical media literacy, identity exploration, and positive youth development. The impact of The Girlhood Project extends beyond its immediate community; it has inspired the creation of other girls' groups modeled after our approach.
The Girlhood Project seeks to validate and uplift girls’ lived experiences through co-construction and feminist group process. TGP fosters the development of Feminist Leadership, Voice, Critical Consciousness, and Community Activism in our participants.
Research shows that as girls develop, they encounter a variety of institutionalized structures that diminish their power. This increases significantly at every intersection of identity and marginalization, including race, class, gender expression, sexuality, disability, etc. A gender gap begins to emerge between girls and boys on factors like self esteem and academic performance during middle school. These factors impact girls’ opportunities for individual success and wellbeing, and ultimately those of their schools and communities. Girls’ experiences with social forces such as the media, schooling, family, health care, immigration, among others can have profound effects on their development, and serve to re-enforce or interrupt the disempowering messages they may receive.
The Girlhood Project creates a co-constructed learning community engaged in intergenerational, intersectional feminist group processes. We use critical media literacy as an entry point for self-exploration as we challenge normative ways of teaching, learning, and being in relationship with youth.