Crazy Smart Asia: Melati Wijsen—The Teenager Changing The World
At just 12 years old, youth activist Melati Wijsen established a grassroots movement that successfully lobbied the world’s second biggest plastic polluter to ban single-use plastic bags.
Growing up in Bali, Wijsen was personally affected by the amount of plastic washing up in the ocean; the Indonesian island generates enough plastic waste to fill a 14-storey building every day. Along with her sister Isabel, she founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags to tackle the issue head-on.
The grassroots youth movement grew at a rapid pace, and Melati went from beach clean-ups with her friends to meetings at the highest level of government, collecting 100,000 signatures and even undertaking a hunger strike along the way. Last year, the campaign reached a breakthrough moment, when Bali banned single-use plastics, including bags, straws and Styrofoam.
After seeing the power of their activism first-hand, Melati, now 19, and her sister launched Youthtopia at Davos this year—a platform for young people to come together to accelerate change and become real-world changemakers.
In this third episode of Crazy Smart Asia, which chronicles the unexpected stories of Asia's disruptors, Wijsen talks to Gen.T editor Lee Williamson about activism, influence and making an impact.
On Committing to the Cause
"Being a young activist, being a change-maker, is not a hobby. It's a lifestyle."
The Time Is Now
“Why is change on the large scale not happening, why can the system not change? Start building your own system and show, prove that it works, then people can scale it, people will adopt it. I think that's one of the easiest ways. You know, our generation is kind of fed up—the waiting is over. Let's just get to action.”
Take Little Steps
"What we have to do is become more focused. We don't have to change the whole world overnight, because we are not alone. There are so many young people focusing on their pieces of the puzzle. Focus on your piece, make a tangible impact, have a starting date and have an end goal."
Youth As An Advantage
"No matter how old you are, it all has to do with the intention that you bring to the table. I think our generation has a unique standpoint because our intention comes not only from a place of urgency, but something that's necessary for the time that we're living in."
"We can't just use being young as a tool to get us heard. If we want to be heard, and we want to get action, we actually have to be smart and think three times ahead of the game. What are the solutions we want?"
On convincing the world's most influential people
"I think you need to be the most authentic person, the brightest in the room. And you have to ask good questions. I think that's something people don't think about world leaders—sometimes they just want to have a conversation. It's not always a pitch. It's not always a handshake. It's a connection that you have to build. And sometimes it's about sitting on the other side of the table and understanding the discussion you're in and not just pointing fingers."
Listen to all released episodes and subscribe using your preferred podcast platform on the Crazy Smart Asia hub page.