TeenVogue Spotlight: Melati and Isabel Wijsen
These Indonesian sisters were just 10 and 12 years old when they founded the NGO Bye Bye Plastic Bags, which has a presence in nine countries. “My sister and I had a lesson in class about positive world leaders, like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Lady Diana,” said Melati. “We went home thinking, ‘OK, what can we do as kids?’”
“Growing up on the island surrounded by ocean, we saw the heavy negative impact plastic has. There’s no escaping it here,” she added. Their solution was to begin raising awareness around waste from plastic bags. That impulse soon turned into a campaign to get the sisters’ native Bali to become plastic bag–free.
In June 2015, just two years after founding their initiative, they got confirmation from the governor that Bali would be plastic bag free by 2018. ”We’re doing everything we can with our team to make sure that the commitment really follows through. We send handwritten and printed letters to the government’s office every two weeks, and emails too, so they cannot forget the promises they have made,” Melati said.
The best part of being an activist, though, is not just seeing your goals come to fruition, says Melati: “We love the idea that we have the ability to inspire and awaken the changemaker within some of the brightest young minds out there. Us kids may only be 25% of the world’s population, but we are 100% of the future.”