Young Melati and Isabel learnt about ‘significant people’ at school one day. These included people like Nelson Mandela, Lady Diana and Mahatma Gandhi. Walking home, they decided that they wanted to become significant people too. They spent all evening brainstorming the issues that their island province, Bali, was facing. The issue that kept coming up was plastic pollution. Aware that plastic pollution is a huge problem to tackle, they decided to research what a realistic target might be. They searched the Internet, looking for inspiration of what changes other people had successfully put into place. They were inspired by other countries’ efforts to say no to plastic bags and dreamt of a Bali without plastic bags. So their plan, ByeByePlasticBags, was born.
They pulled together a team of kids and adults from all over the island and started giving educational presentations and provided them with alternatives to plastic bags. Next, they organised a meeting with the Governor of Bali and asked him to support their idea. But…he said no. So they created a petition. The petition needed a whopping one million signatures, which turned out not to be so easy.
The girls found out that Bali airport handles 16 million arrivals a year. So they headed to the airport and begged and begged until they managed to get permission to stand behind security and ask people for their signatures as they queued up for passport control. In the first hour-and-a-half, they collected nearly 1,000 signatures. But as time went by, the number of signatures still hadn’t hit one million. The girls started to worry the petition might not work out and that they might need another way of convincing the government.
One day, on a trip to India, the girls learnt about Mahatma Gandhi and his hunger strikes. Inspired, they decided not to eat from sunrise to sunset every day until the Governor of Bali would meet with them. Just 24 hours later, the girls’ hunger strike had succeeded – the governor of Bali agreed to meet with them.
The meeting was successful and the Governor agreed that Bali would be free of plastic bags by 2018. Although this actually took until 2019 to be achieved, Melati and Isabel haven’t let anything get in their way. When things don’t work out they search for new ways to solve the problem. They want to inspire other children to do the same. They say, ‘No matter how old you are or where you come from, you can always lead by example. Don’t wait for permission. Don’t wait until you’re older for someone to make that path for you. Make your own path – and go for it.’
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