By Christian Buonfiglio, Guest Writer
Daisy Leonard and her sisters, Coco and Sunny, have problems of global importance to solve. Racial and religious hatred, the decline in the mental health of young people, and the marginalization of girls drove them to create Dynamic Champions of Sisterhood, an online reading club that connects girls from all over the world to help them build confidence, challenge old ideas, and change the world.
The Leonard sisters created DCS with funding provided by the Points of Light Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to engaging with people from all walks of life to help the world meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The sisters presented their ideas at the 2019 Youth Leadership Summit, which was hosted by the National Youth Leadership Council as part of the POLF Conference.
“My colleague Maddy Wegner, Director of Youth Engagement at NYLC, invited us to the Points of Light Foundation Youth Summit when she heard about DCS,” said Daisy, 16. “She saw its potential and knew that the financial and networking support we could gain at the Summit would immensely help us carry out our vision.”
The support from POLF helped the Leonard sisters transform DCS from an informal group to a full-fledged nonprofit organization. “We wanted a bigger platform to reach more forgotten girls around the world, and be able to give them a stage and unlock the voice inside of them,” said Coco, 15. “By creating the non-profit, not only would we have a better business model that would be long-lasting and sustainable … but also a better way to reach out to foreign organizations in other countries.”
With the help of Facebook and the hard work of skilled translators, DCS has been hosting multiple book clubs with girls from Afghanistan, India, and Togo. The girls from Afghanistan, who call their group Kahari – “sisterhood” in the Dari language – have been reading Les Miserables and discussing isolation and prison. The Indian girls, who call their club Aghnipankh, or “Wings of Fire” in Marathi, have been reading The Diary of Anne Frank and discussing tradition and individuality. The largest group, Le Papillon, French for “The Butterfly,” is made up of girls from Togo, who are all students from a boarding school.
“They all are girls that would ordinarily have no voice and wouldn’t be asked what their opinion is, and they have all felt the feeling of being forgotten by the world,” said Coco. “They all are not only wanting a voice, but are taking the opportunity presented to them and thriving.”
These book clubs are held in order to bring girls together and discuss difficult and often vulnerable subjects openly. “The truth is that the books pushed participants past personal differences, and into a world where universal truths faced by all girls worldwide could be unearthed,” Daisy said. “Participants could externalize and express their thoughts and feelings through characters in a book.”
The discussions were enlightening, and Coco said that they also corrected many of her misconceptions about girls from other countries. “I truthfully always thought they just followed whatever their elders told them without question,” Coco said. “But after speaking to them I realized that they do question the ways of their elders, and that they don’t always get along with their parents, and that they also feel like nobody understands.”
A large part of hosting these discussions is healing the rift between human beings caused by the isolation, anxiety, and depression frequently caused by today’s social climate. “[American girls] aren’t having meaningful conversations,” said Sunny, 13. “Today teens are so caught up in comparing themselves on social media, as well as in everyday stresses, that they unknowingly create a powerful barrier of isolation through ignorance.”
Through leading these discussions, the Leonard sisters and their participants have learned the importance of empathy across borders and the power that girls have in their collective voice. “This kind of an organization is so important to be able to connect the next generation of young people,” Sunny said. “It gives the next generation a strong sisterhood so that the world is not fearing one another, and so that no girl in this world feels that they are alone and have no voice.”
Learn more about DCS here.