Melati and Isabel Wijsen
Melati and Isabel are sisters from Bali who became environmental activists in 2013 at the age of 12 & 10 when they were inspired after a lesson at school about people who have made a profound difference in the world, such as Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr. They wanted to make a difference and looked around to see what they could do at children because as they have been quoted saying they didn’t want to wait until they were adults to make a difference. Living next to the ocean they experienced the rising plastic pollution every time they went to the beach. They often got plastic bags tangled around their arms and legs while they were swimming and they decided enough was enough!
After a quick internet search, they found out that many countries had already started to tax or eliminate the use of plastic bags, so they decided to create Bye Bye Plastic bags and take on eliminating their use in Bali. They started by creating a petition and they gathered over 6000 signatures in one day! They created community and school-based workshops to educate their fellow citizens about the harm of plastic pollution on the oceans and organized beach clean-up events. In 2016, they decided they needed to bring more attention to their cause and took a page from Gandhi and announced on social media that they were going to go on a food strike. This caused the governor of Bali to invite them to a meeting to discuss eliminating plastic bags. Three years later in 2019, the government passed a law making the use of single-use plastic bags illegal in Bali.
Bye Bye Plastic Bags has grown into a global organization and NGO that empowers youths around the world to start their bye-bye plastic bag movement in their city. Melati and Isabel have created a starter kit that shows young people how to create a team and start a movement to make a change in their communities to eliminate plastic pollution.
Now 21 and 19, the sisters have spoken on many global stages including, Ted Talks, the United Nations, World Economic Forum, and International Monetary Fund. Yet they are most passionate about speaking to other young people to educate them and empower them to make a difference. They have also branched out into social activism by developing a program in Bali called Mountain Mamas that empowers local women to be entrepreneurs by training them and giving them the tools to make reusable eco-bags made from recycled and donated materials.
Melati and Isabel are prime examples of how sharing a single idea can develop and have a ripple effect worldwide, inspiring and empowering countless others to make a difference in their part of the world. So, remember Melati and Isabel and just start sharing next time you think that you are too young or that your idea is too big or difficult. Before you know it you will have a team and who knows, you might be on your way to starting a global movement of your own!
For more information on Bye Bye, Plastic Bags check out their website: www.byebyeplasticbags.org.