My name is Palwasha Siddiq. I’m 21 years old and am a Young Leader with the Pakistan Girl Guides Association (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chapter) and a Chairperson of its Youth Committee.
My involvement in environmental action started a few years ago when plastic pollution had reached an all-time high here in Pakistan. My first major project was called Green Leaf delivered in collaboration with a group of doctors, politicians, and advocates. We advocated against plastic pollution producing reusable cotton bags that we distributed in our communities. They were very popular.
However after about a year, the pandemic broke out and most our activities initially came to a standstill. Fortunately, an opportunity to participate in a challenge series called The Tide Turners Plastic Challenge was presented to me through WAGGGS and my Member Organization. This series had a range of interesting and engaging activities around plastic pollution and contained all the main guidance a young climate and environment advocate would need to make an impact.
We started the ‘Wavemakers’ training with a discussion on ourselves, helping us to link our priorities, strengths, and weaknesses and therefore better understand how each one of us could make an impact. Our activities were usually challenging but in an innovative manner allowing us to think outside of the box.
The training also allowed us to learn about the different practicalities of our advocacy journey and how we would need to constantly work together to make meaningful change. We looked at the issue from different angles and learnt how different countries were impacted by this one global issue in different ways. We were also taught about how to work with different kinds of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities, and how important having a tailored approach in different communities would be.
My next step is to pass on what I learnt in those two weeks of training. I plan to learn from my mistakes and guide my fellow Guides on their own journeys to decrease plastic pollution, and to making a meaningful impact in their communities through advocacy.
My personal advocacy project prioritises educating young people about the cause of plastic pollution. Since more than half our population is below 25 years old, it is important to educate them and encourage them to play their part. My second goal is to work around changing people’s behaviours around plastic usage. We start small through, for example, substituting plastic items with reusable and environment friendly options and then gradually move on to bigger changes, for example, campaigning on legislation to ban single-use plastic or compulsory waste audits.
With all of us carrying out our personal projects simultaneously, we know we can bring about an immense impact on our country’s plastic usage and bring the severity of this issue to our community's attention.
This issue is particularly important to me because developing countries like my own are the hardest hit when it comes to unsustainable development. And although I know it will be a long time until the problem of plastic pollution will be eradicated, if we don't act now, it will take three times the time and effort to even minimise the impact of plastic pollution, especially given our country’s limited resources. This motivates me every day, to progress with my project, and to pass the baton onto my fellow Girl Guides.