The Leader OF Bye Bye Plastic Bags and One Island One Voice joins PARLEY
Melati Wijsen has witnessed the impacts of plastic pollution her entire life. Growing up in Bali during a time of rapid development and global change, she has an innate and deep appreciation for the oceans — and respect for their fragility. Learning about the stories of history-making activists in school motivated Melati and her sister, Isabel, to stand up and create change together. Inspired by Gandhi, they led a hunger strike to move Bali’s governor, Mangku Pastika, to commit to a ban on plastic bags. Today, the teenage sisters are committed to holding the government to its promises, while empowering local communities and especially youth to take action.
Melati and Isabel founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags, an NGO driven by youth to make Bali plastic bag free and empower Bali’s youth resistance, and One Island One Voice, a Bali-based network of organizations active in the field of waste prevention and management through awareness campaigns and political regulation. Before graduating from high school, Melati had mobilized communities in record-breaking beach cleanups, taken the stage at the United Nations, spoken at the largest ocean conferences (to standing ovations) and inspired individuals of all ages. Her TED talk has received over a million views — and she’s just getting started.
Today's youth aren't waiting to become leaders; they're already driving the change we need. We’re honored to have Melati setting the tone as a Parley Youth Ambassador. Below, she shares some reflections, motivations and advice for other youth activists. Welcome to the crew, Melati!
What do you tell people when they ask you things like, why you want to protect the oceans?
Because it is part of my home. I grew up on Bali, an island surrounded by ocean — Indonesia! The world’s largest archipelago with 17,000 islands and... the ocean. I feel like I am protecting and standing up for my home. I protect the oceans because I love it, and I protect what I love.
Why is it important for youth to speak out about what's happening in society and its life support, the oceans? What can your voice bring to the movement that maybe the older crowd is missing?
I believe it's important for youth to speak up and speak out because it's all happening in our lifetime and we don't really have the luxury to wait much longer to act. And besides, I also feel that youth have a clearer vision for solutions detached from hidden agendas, politics, or greed.
What motivates you to keep up the resistance?
Sunsets and my records and my family and friends. Honestly, they are what keep me grounded and motivated — they are the best reminders of what makes all of this so beautiful! And my team around me who constantly motivate me and remind me of the pureness and passion in which the movements started with...and need to continue with!
Why join Parley? What does Parley AIR represent to you and the work you do with Bye Bye Plastic Bags and One Island One Voice?
I wanted to join Parley because of so many reasons! The synergies between the movements of Parley and my own campaigns excited me, I've always felt that AIR really articulated and broke down the solutions in an easy way for individuals to start making a change within their own lifestyles. AIR also has a special place for me because it's close to my own values.
What's your advice to other youth hoping to make a difference in their communities?
I have so much advice! I think running a youth driven campaign for the last five years does that for/to you. My biggest advice would be: Go for it! Be YOU, be creative, be different, be weird! Identify and tune into yourself, find something you’re really passionate about, something that lights a fire under your bum! And share it with others — use your voice. Don't wait until you're older, don't wait until you've graduated high school, just go for it. Learn and be aware about what is happening NOW. Sometimes it's scary, to stand out. And trust me, it won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it and you won't be alone!
Which sea creature do you mostidentify with?
Watch Melati and Isabel speak at the UN General Assembly Hall during a World Oceans Day 2017 celebration co-produced by Parley.