Inspiring Youth, Empowering the Globe – Melati and Isabel Wijsen

In this series of articles, we’ll be casting the spotlight upon a number of people around the world who truly are inspiring youth.

These individuals are famous for a number of different reasons, but one consistency is that, despite their relative lack of years, they have stamped their mark upon issues that matter the most to them; turning them into global icons.

We can all learn a great deal from these individuals but as young people, we should look up to them not only in admiration for their work, but to feel empowered to say, “I can be like them”.

In this, the third piece of the series, we shine the empowering spotlight on… Melati and Isabel Wijsen.


Names – Melati & Isabel Wijsen

Ages – 17 & 15

Nationality – Bali, Indonesia

Cause for Inspiration – Banning single use

plastics across their native Bali and beyond

Melati and Isabel Wijsen were born and raised on the island paradise of Bali, Indonesia in the early 2000s. Renowned for its white sandy beaches and swaying palm trees, this idyllic spot seems, to many, like heaven on earth.


However, with such a reputation, Bali inevitably became one of the most desirable destinations on the planet. Coupled with Indonesia’s rapidly expanding population, the nation having the 4th largest number of residents in the world, paradise soon became covered in plastic.

In fact, Indonesia reached the undesired heights of being the second largest plastic polluters in the world, sitting behind only China, and accounting for 10% of marine plastic waste. Ever since plastic was introduced to Bali, plastic has been found on beaches, in waterways and even in food.

This is where Melati and Isabel stepped up.

Despite being only 10 and 12 at the time, it was clear to them the negative effect plastic was having and one fateful day at school set them on a path to eradicating the problem.

Having spent the day learning of empowered figures such as Nelson Mandela, Lady Diana and Martin Luther King; the young girls began to question what they could do to become change instigators like these legendary figures.

Naturally, with plastic destroying their local environments, they turned their attention to cleaning up the island, not only to protect the land, but also the sea-life populations whose lives were being transformed by plastic in the water.

At first, they began by obtaining permission to collect signatures, to prove how many people also believed in their cause. Starting among their friends and fellow young people, they had 6000 names within 24 hours and eventually racked up over 100,000.

However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Despite the growing movement, establishment of their Bye Bye Plastic Bags organisation and rapidly increasing volume of support from both citizens and tourists alike, government officials continued to ignore the girls’ request to take things further for over 18 months.

Not to be so easily dissuaded, Melati and Isabel decided to take a more serious course of action. Inspired by a trip to India, they commenced a hunger strike, under supervision from nutritionists, as a way to truly catch the attention of those in power.

Finally, they broke through the barriers and were granted an audience with the powers that be; Melati and Isabel convinced them of the need to act and by direct consequence of their actions, the Indonesian government has pledged to invest $1 billion in reducing marine waste by 70 per cent by 2025, as part of the UN’s Clean Seas Program.

In December of last year, Governor Wayan Koster, announced a ban on single-use plastic with a 6 month period to give businesses time to react; on June 23rd 2019, the bill was officially brought into law and the Wijsen’s fight had been won.

And yet, they haven’t stopped there. Bye Bye Plastic Bags has been expanded to 35 teams across the globe helping take the fight against plastic worldwide. The Wijsen’s have spoken at 329 presentations including TED Talks, at the UN and the World Bank helping raise global awareness of the need to minimise plastic usage.

At home, Melati and Isabel have distributed nearly 17,000 alternative bags to local communities to help eradicate plastic as well as introducing river booms to collect waste and organise Bali’s largest ever beach clean up, attracting 12,000 volunteers.

Education has also played a huge part in their work, distributing 2950 educational booklets across 45,000 students and establishing social enterprise Mountain Mamas has enabled them to continue to push toward the plastic free future they envisioned and desire.

Inspiration In Your World…

As well as sharing the stories of these inspiring youth, this series also intends to challenge you, the reader, to think how can we take, in this case, Melati and Isabel’s example into our own lives?

  • We can stand up for causes we believe in
  • Acknowledge that local changes can have global impacts
  • Use our voices to be heard, age doesn’t matter
  • Ask how do you keep your world clean?
  • Become the beacon for the young of Nepal; inspire those around you to join your cause 

To find out more about Melati and Isabel, their story and how they are continuing the fight against plastic, take a look at the following:

Bye Bye Plastic Bags – website of the Wijsen’s organisation, going into detail of the work they are doing

Jacob Goodwin, UK

Currently volunteering here at Youth Legend as part of a career break, back home I used to work in Software Sales.My passion lies not only in sport, especially football and my beloved Doncaster Rovers, but also in hiking, music and craft beer

More on Inspiring Youth Series:
Inspiring Youth, Empowering the Globe – Malala Yousafzai
Inspiring Youth, Empowering the Globe – Greta Thunberg