Zymal Umar, the young entrepreneur turning old newspapers into the future

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Zymal Umar is an environmental activist who wishes to see an eco-friendly Pakistan. 

She is the founder and owner of an innovative social project named Zee bags — an upcycling enterprise that turns old newspapers into beautiful biodegradable bags. Read this blog for World Children's Day and discover other young leaders advocating for children's rights here.

"It was quite a while ago that I was sitting in my car parked in a market and the scenario that I saw there shook me from the inside: plastic bags flying away with the slightest breeze and innocent children sleeping on the road all alone.

Can you even imagine your child resting his head on a piece of brick? No! Right? Then how can we be so unkind to even see these children in such a vulnerable situation? This question kept on bothering me the whole night. Two sleepless nights, then I knew what I had to do. Newspaper bag it was!

Making bags out of biodegradable material and using the sale money for charitable purposes were the two main targets of my organisation. But it wasn’t as convenient as it seemed to be, especially for a girl who was just 8 years old. People underestimated the power of a child but my parents and my family were the ones who have always had my back, even to this date.

They always say something to motivate me. 'Nothing is impossible! Even the word impossible says possible', and believe me it always gives me a push start.

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Zymal Umar

My idea took years to become what it is today. It wasn’t done overnight and the success was gradual. I am not an overnight star! But I think that made me what I am today, otherwise I wouldn't have learned what hard work is. I think people have always misunderstood the power and passion of a girl, but what they don’t know is that the willpower of a girl is stronger than the biggest storms. At times, people become very judgmental but believe me, consider their negative comments as a measure of your success.

Earlier, when I started this project as a young girl I never knew I’d come this far, but it all requires motivation and patience as you always have to wait for the good things to come in your life.

I never knew that one day the Prince of Saudi Arabia would call me to give an award of appreciation, I never knew I’d be called to so many conferences as a motivational speaker considering at the tender age I am, and most of all I never knew that I could put a smile of hope on young deprived children.

"We need to support young entrepreneurs, and test their capability. The future is our young people!"

I consider this my biggest achievement to date. Seeing smiles on the faces of children makes me the happiest I could ever be. Yesterday, I got a call from a mother who was remembering the pre-COVID times when we went to them in person and tried to give them all that they were deprived of. She was telling how her children often mention us and wait for us to come but COVID has almost killed their last hope for joy. But I promised her that I won't let that happen and that I will come to them again as soon as the pandemic calms down because nothing is bigger than their joy.

These two years have been very difficult for all of us due to the pandemic: schools were shut down, markets were shut down, offices were shut down and people weren't getting their salaries. But have we ever thought about underprivileged societies? How hard would it have been for these people to survive?

Some of these people also lost their lives as they couldn't afford the costly hospital charges for their loved ones, while some people died of hunger. But the fact that many young people today are keen to help the environment and those in need around us has given me a sound of hope that one day we will achieve our goals.

But for that, we need to support these young entrepreneurs and test their capability because a nation that does not believe in the power of children and women has never been successful. The future is our young people! Get out of the typical life of a youngster and BE YOU!"

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