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Women Series: Melati Wijsen and The Power of The Youth

It all started with a dream of doing good that has an impact on the world. It became an idea to create a movement on the island where they were born and raise, which has issues on trash, especially plastic trash, for years.

At the age of 12 and 10 years old, Melati and Isabel Wijsen studied the incredible changemakers around the world from Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana, to Ibu Kartini, at their school, Green School Bali. They were so inspired by those changemakers and they started to think about what can they do to become one. “Living in Bali, living so close to the beach, even at 10 and 12 years old, it wasn’t rocket science to see that plastic has a negative impact to our environment.” Said Melati. And so the Bye Bye Plastic Bags movement began.

Melati & Isabel Wijsen initiated what it’s called the biggest children driven action in Bali, and probably in the country, has ever seen. They want Bali, the place they love, free of trash, especially plastic trash. So they started a movement with their best friends to ban plastic bags in Bali by giving talks on schools in Bali about the dangers of using plastic bags and held beach clean-up days.

But it’s all nothing without the support from the official government of Bali. They can get the government attention if they can collect 1.000.000 signatures and so they did. They went to Ngurah Rai International Airport to get more signatures, and they went beyond by doing a food strike, just like their role model Mahatma Gandhi, to gain the government attention.

And it worked. The governor of Bali has released a Memorandum of Understanding to make Bali free of plastic bags by 2018.

Malaria House spends times with now the 17 years old Melati Wijsen, one of the Bye Bye Plastic Bags founders, where she shared her mission to share the awareness about the dangers of plastic bags to other children around Bali.

One of the most important program of the Bye Bye Plastic Bags movement is a strong focus on education. “Because we really believe that education is the key for change. If you don’t know the problem, how do you know the solution, right? So we start with education.” Said Melati.

Bye Bye Plastic Bags has spoken to over 18.000 students around the world through workshop and presentation at schools. There is a 55 pages educational booklet that talk about the climate change, the sustainable development goal, and a complete information about the solutions.

And they don’t stop there. They gained support from the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, to start a pilot program in the Village of Pererenan, Bali. Pererenan village is a home to 800 local families. Every Saturday, the bye bye plastic bags team distributes alternative bags to the local shops and warungs.

They learn more about the Balinese culture and adapt their way of influencing because no change will happen without the local support. They also work together with influence people, especially the governor of Bali, to raise the awareness among the adults about using the more sustainable shopping bags.

The movement soon became famous all over the world, especially after their TEDTalk in London. It has inspired youth from all over the world to initiate bye bye plastic bags in their country. You can find bye bye plastic bags initiative in countries like Australia, Nepal, Myanmar, China, Singapore, and the Philippines. You can find it also in cities like Jakarta, New York, and Guadalajara.

It all started with a dream, which now is becoming an inspirational youth movement. The girls realize that their initiative is still a long way from perfect. They continue to raise awareness about the dangers of using plastic bags by creating an educational booklet, aimed at elementary school students, packed with information on how to make your own bags, waste management, and pollution.

Melati Wijsen and her sister have shown that you don’t have to become an adult in order to make a change. “I want to say that we are living in 2018. Our generation, we have to be on the front line and doesn’t matter if you are a girl or a boy. That should not give you any limitation whatsoever. You are who you are. And if you have passion and you believe on what you are saying, if you believe on what you’re fighting for, everybody will hear you.” Said Melati.

“If you want to learn more about the Bye Bye Plastic Bags movement, check out their TEDTalk HERE or visit their website HERE.

Photo & Video by @arimendrofa

By: Malariahouse | 18 August 2018