Written by Cameron Cavaliere, SWSG Pittsburgh Communications Intern

At Strong Women, Strong Girls, we use MEL (Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning) to better understand and share what the girls in our program are going through. When using MEL to understand the struggles girls face in school, we uncovered a fact that surprised us: more than 1 in 4 girls in our program identified bullying as a major problem for themselves and others their age. 

With more than 730 participants in our program across 40 program sites, that’s a lot of girls who have either been a victim of bullying or know other girls who have. Just being aware that bullying was a problem for girls, however, isn’t enough. We still had, and continue to have, a lot to learn about girls’ experiences of bullying and what they meant specifically when they used that word. 

To analyze and learn more about what girls meant when they identified bullying as a problem, SWSG used focus groups and arts-based evaluation. We asked girls in our program to draw pictures of how bullying affects kids. In the image below, you can see that the girls drew pictures of bullying in different forms, including racist and sexist language and behavior. Included with their drawings are direct quotes from girls when we asked them to explain their artwork.

By learning about our girls’ experiences through open-ended questions and allowing them to express themselves through art, we can better understand the meaning behind the data. This allows us to think about ways our program can better support girls in these situations and identify how we can be advocates for girls in systems like the school system. At SWSG, we are now able to use what we learned from girls about bullying to create curriculum that specifically addresses this important topic.