Youth Matters

A little girl’s journey of combating plastic pollution

A six-year-old girl sat in front of scraps leftover from her father’s workshop. She clang towards little pieces of scraps to turn them into something of worth. She grabbed them and said to herself, “If I throw it in the nearest dustbin like all the people around the world, it won’t make any difference, but if I turn this into something then it can be used for playing or anything else.” So, she turned these scraps into a house or ball or anything else she desired. That was the start of her life towards something bigger than herself, bigger than her age, and bigger than her thoughts.

The little girl is Emaan Danish Khan of Karachi. Turning scraps into playthings for herself was the first step in her journey to spread awareness about the effect humans have on the environment. She loves marine life, loves nature, and is a frequent traveler. All of this contributed to making her a climate activist. 

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After two years, in 2018, Emaan got selected for ClimateLaunchpad (CLP) — the world’s largest green business ideas competition. It was there that she learnt about how the world she is living in is damaged by herself and her fellow human beings. She got inspired by her trainer and founder of CLP, Frans Nauta, who has a vision of monitoring every activity that harms the planet and combat degradational activities. 

Emaan says she cannot stop thinking about two events that had a lasting impact on her. She remembers a crab dying because its head was stuck in the head of a plastic doll. She also remembers a dying whale on a beach in South Asia. “The whale came to the shore with tons and tons of plastic in its mouth; plastic, which humans dump carelessly in the ocean,” she says. 

The plastic problem is much talked about in the environment context and despite several campaigns for the recycle of plastic and petitions to ban single use plastic, the problem persists. According to a Greenpeace report, around 10% of the plastic of the 260 million tons produced globally ends up in the ocean. 

Emaan’s efforts, despite a drop in the ocean, are to be lauded in fighting the ocean plastic problem. After meeting Emaan, her trainer suggested making something valuable by recycling plastic. An idea clicked in Emaan’s mind and she made a design of a doll with recycled plastic. Her nanny stitched a purple dress for the doll while her father suggested two names for it: Fizzah and Saba. In the end, the doll was named Fizzah. In the first stage, Emaan made 20 sample dolls from cotton, and then started making them from plastic that she collected herself from different polluted areas.

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Fizzah serves as a mascot for Emaan’s venture in which she makes dolls from recycled plastic and takes them along while she spreads awareness about the environment and climate. To connect people to their environment, she decided to write stories about climate change which are given complementary with the dolls. 

Emaan is also conducting climate talks at various places to spread awareness about rescuing the planet. She has spoken at the WOW Karachi Festival, Lahooti Melo, Jamshoro University, Mehran University, Nisar Foundation, Youth Jamhoori, and in TCF schools across the city. She has been selected as an ambassador for climate change in the first ever Sustainable Development Goals Expo Pakistan 2020 being organized by the NGO Markaz-e-Umeed as well. 

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Although she’s doing her best, she realizes that these efforts are not enough. Even though she is getting all the support and encouragement from her family, some people don’t understand the point of her efforts. “They think what rubbish this is, Emaan is just a little girl and she should focus on her studies and enjoy her childhood rather than collecting trash from drains and garbage dumps”.

She opines that there is still a lack of awareness about environmental crises. “People don’t understand that the environment is connected with them and they are part of that environment. If their environment is suffering from climate change, ultimately the consequences will tear them apart too. The Australian bush-fire is the biggest of all recent examples,” says Emaan. 

Watching the ambitions of the 9-year-old girl, Emaan’s mother feels proud of her daughter’s incredible job in spreading climate awareness. The mother-daughter duo is waiting for their first launch of project Fizzah. But they say it won’t stop there. For a permanent change, Emaan wants government action to make climate change a mandatory subject in schools. “Climate change is real and climate change is happening,” she warns the masses in her on-going journey. 

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