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“Plastic free Maldives: I believe”, Afa 21 years old

16 August 2018

I am from Kulhuduffushi, the heart of northern Maldives. My dream is to help my island go plastic free. Many islands in Maldives are now free from plastic bags which means that it is possible. I want to bring this change to Kulhuduffushi, through the NGO I founded when I was 19 - BeLeaf - because I believe.

In Maldives we are known as the children of the sea.

As I live by the sea, I have this amazing island life. I am proud to say that I am from Kulhuduffushi, which is the most populous island in the north of Maldives. We have…I mean, we HAD a beautiful mangrove, one of the largest white mud mangroves with the largest black forest in Maldives. But sadly we don’t have it anymore and it made me realize that I need to work harder, I need to be louder and raise awareness so people do something about it.

BeLeaf, my very own NGO.

When I was 19 I started my own NGO, I called it BeLeaf. Together with many volunteers I try to make people understand that we are losing the beauty of our island. We started by creating awareness within our island for a more sustainable life in harmony with the environment and to make our island greener and cleaner.

I came to Male’ when I turned 19 to study environmental management. Environmental advocacy is my passion and I needed the tools to bring change to my island. I want to work in environment management for my country and especially for my island. My course is very much focused on the reality of Maldives: what is happening in my island and all around Maldives. Everything I learn I am passing it to the people in my island, that is part of my advocacy work.

I give awareness sessions to volunteers, mostly to youth and children from schools, the Scout Association and Maldives Girl Guide Association, as well as other NGOs. I also organize cleaning initiatives and playful events for children. People are aware that there is plenty plastic being thrown into the ocean but they need to understand that they too are polluting our ocean. They might think that one plastic bag, one bottle doesn’t make any difference but it really does.

I believe in a Plastic free Maldives.

As citizens, as a communities we need to take action. Focusing mostly on fisheries and tourism, our economy relies very much on the environment, which means that we need to work together to make our environment sustainable.

My biggest dream is to make my island a plastic free island and I don’t see a reason why we cannot do it. A lot of islands in Maldives are achieving this and I want to make that a reality through BeLeaf. As a female environmental advocate I want to bring change to my country and especially to my island. I will continue working towards plastic freeing my island even after I graduate.

We need to start advocating to protect our oceans because there is no planet B and the future generations don’t have to face the consequences of our actions. If we are to make a difference, we need to start now!

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Young women encounter challenges every day. Apart from sharing their communities’ struggles over limited resources like water, land or jobs, many systematically face discrimination simply by virtue of being female. This includes physical and sexual violence, being kept out of school, disproportionate vulnerability to HIV infection and lack of access to property and other rights.

Yet young women around the globe possess the collective power to change their lives, their communities and the world we live in. Just as they face daily challenges, young women are continually developing innovative, effective ways to improve their lives. By bringing together their wisdom and creativity, young women are leading change.

Text & Photos ©Tatiana Almeida/UNFPA Maldives