A CNN hero who decided to help Indonesia collect thousands of tons of plastic for recycling has been singled out by a new initiative for young women to use as inspiration.
Mariam Hamid Sulaiman, the CNN hero, was given a trip to Bali earlier this year to learn how the island was working to collect plastic waste from citizens and businesses to build a giant recycling bin outside the town hall.
The female CNN heroes from regions around the world who mentor teenagers. You can hear from Mariam Sulaiman below.
Sulaiman, 30, was raised in Sri Lanka by Hindu parents. After graduating college she became an international political campaigner and visited Indonesia to help with the trash management on Bali.
In Indonesia, if you can’t recycle something you put it in a bin. Bali now has its own solid waste management plan. But most of the plastic was eventually buried, on the plain.
Gastroenterologist Sulaiman, has herself proposed a plan to import plastic from other countries to rehabilitate it and make it useful again.
“We’re offering this plastic fibre, the nylon’s for insulation,” she said. “I came up with this idea and tried to figure out how we could do it. When I turned to a friend, who is a dentist, we realised that we had to do something about the plastic ban in this country that is an inspiration to the rest of the world.”
The idea they came up with was to assemble a container for plastic that could carry out surgical procedures. It might keep syringes and other surgical tools secure, especially because Bali has earthquake prone mountains and is exposed to tsunamis.
The container would hold about 30 tonnes of plastic, just enough to do that operation. As the president of the community, Sulaiman wants it made available to women because they are experts with surgical instruments and they can see the impact that the message it would make has on the community.
Finnish engineering graduate Madeleine Stein, who met Sulaiman when she visited her hospital to help with plastic recycling, met the CNN hero during a youth conference for young women.
Stein was impressed by the way she was uniting volunteers from the local community with engineers to tackle challenges in their country.
Stein, who works for the Finnish Environmental Defense Agency, is now encouraging other CNN heroes from all over the world to use Sulaiman’s example to empower young girls to address social problems in their own communities.
“Imagine how difficult it is to engage with your government,” she said. “And to do so from a health perspective is even more challenging. Mariam, though, showed us it is possible.
“It shows us that creating change doesn’t mean we have to just send our own suggestions and dreams down a ‘solution pipe’. She sees possibilities that others don’t. We have an opportunity to prove how powerful this person is through our actions.”
The new initiative, a programme headed by Swiss entrepreneur and philanthropist Elke Federman, is aiming to show that it is possible to create impact.
“We want to show what exists and maybe show what we can do in different countries,” Federman said. “We can change things.”