Inspiration – 10-Year Old Girls from Bali Created a Social Movement

Heidi Solba, the Head of Network Development & Support met two fabulous sisters from Bali who started a movement, Bye-Bye Plastic Bags, when the youngest of the girls was just 10 years old! A few weeks ago, these girls launched their first beach cleanup and brought together 20 500 people collecting 40 tons of waste. Here’s a story of inspiration and thoughts about true leadership.

Bye Bye Plastic Bags is a social initiative initiated by children, driven by the youth to get the people of Bali to say no to plastic bags. Founders and sisters, Melati (15) and Isabel (13) Wijsen started Bye Bye Plastic Bags three years ago: they were inspired by a lesson in class about significant people like Nelson Mandela, Lady Diana, Mahatma Ghandi. They went home that day and thought: “What can we do as children living in Bali, what can we do NOW.” Bye Bye Plastic Bags was born in 2013 and now has a volunteer team of 25-30 students from all schools in Bali, local and internationally.


Meeting the youngest of the sisters, Isabel, and listening to her, I couldn’t help but wonder, how is it possible that at such a young age she and her sister are able to think in such broad terms? Not to think so much about themselves? To me they are true leaders – they express leadership through their thinking, expressions and their deeds.

I’ve been working with leaders all my life, and I’ve been thinking, what is the secret ingredient of a successful leader? I already know that one of the main ingredients must be the passion, but there is something more. There must be something else, something that makes those girls so capable and great at such a young age. How come they’re already so experienced, bold and passionate?

Well, at some point, I found myself talking to the source, so to say. I spoke to their mother Dessa. Needless to say, their mother was a special lady. To questions that seemed complicated to me about how to raise such brilliant kids I received surprisingly simple answers.

The answer was to live and act big! She explained to me that one shall think big. Raising the girls, to her, meant there were no boundaries – she gave them the access and space to believe in themselves and do things never done before. The girls had an upbringing that was always solution-driven. I realized, that usually people think how things are complicated, dangerous or how we can’t act. She led the girls to work towards the possibilities.

Any ideas that came up, they worked through them together. They went over plans and chose between many different options – and there was always support from the parents, who were also their best mentors. I was inspired by how they worked together as equals even though there was obviously a big age gap.

Being a good person, a good parent

What is my conclusion about this story? It gave me belief in a frameless world and life, made me once again realize that belief in yourself and your power is essential. If beliefs are also accompanied with a positive and supportive attitude, and trust – anything can happen!

Meeting the girls, I was facing again the importance of being a good person or a mother, a father, a mentor. Doing it in a open and supportive way will give the world so many great persons, leaders – thanks to whom the world will become a better place.

I truly believe that if we have more young people like that on this planet, we’ll change the problems into solutions. That kind of attitude and leadership can solve the waste pollution and countless other problems we’re facing.

Inspired and humble, I’d like to thank Isabel, Melati and Dessa from Bye Bye Plastic Bags.

And yes! They joined us and will organize a big cleanup on the World Cleanup Day 2018!

Written by Heidi Solba, Head of Network Development & Support of Let’s Do It! World