Melati and Isabel Wijsen were just 10 and 12 years old respectively when they started to weigh in on the plastic problem in their country.
They were born on the island of Bali, Indonesia. In 2013, they started a non-profit called Bye Bye Plastic Bags (BBPB), aiming to ban plastic bags in the region.
This was triggered by crushing local circumstances. An estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean, and Indonesia is the biggest contributor after China.
“The question became ‘who’s going to do something about it,” Melati told Forbes Indonesia. “We thought ‘why don’t we do something about it? Why don’t we stand up for our island?”
After six years of campaigning, in June 2019 — following coverage on the BBC, Forbes, Aljazeera and a high-profile TED-talk — the sisters got what they’d been asking for. The island banned single-use plastic bags, straws and styrofoam.
The sisters are now 16 and 18, and BBPB now has a team of 35 volunteers around the world. Collectively, they’ve spoken to 45,000 students.
“I really believe that us kids may only be 25% of the world’s population, but we are 100% of the future,” Melati said at the National Geographic festival.
For activists so young, and so high-profile, maintaining a work / life / education balance is tough. But the sisters stress that their school’s flexibility — and belief in the educational potential of involvement with BBPB events — has allowed them to continue learning. “It’s still a lot to manage sometimes though. We still go to school and have homework for math or have to read books,” the sisters say.
“We like that part of school that is actually not related to BBPB so we’re doing something different. But usually I go to school and then come home to work on BBPB stuff like emails, social media, preparing for speeches, etc. It’s a lot of work. But I love it!”Tags: Activism, Bali, Climate crisis, Plastic Bags
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