December 5, 2021

Harnessing the Untapped Power of Female Workers to Enhance Climate Resiliency

To celebrate the launch of the ICONIQ Impact Climate Equity Co-Lab, we're highlighting the three portfolio organizations helping women protect their lives and our planet through climate-related employment.

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On April 25, 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Lamjung, Nepal—a small district roughly 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu. The death toll quickly surpassed 9,000, making it the deadliest earthquake to hit the country in over 80 years.

At only nine miles deep, the shallow quake and aftershocks created tremors on the surface, resulting in the collapse of more than 600,000 homes. The steep death toll can be attributed to Nepal’s poorly constructed multi-story buildings and homes, primarily built from easily sourced materials such as brick, mud mortar, and wood. These poor construction practices have left the majority of Nepal’s buildings without the adequate foundations and steel reinforcements necessary to withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters such as mudslides, floods, and severe storms—which are all increasing in strength and frequency as the climate warms. Build Change, an ICONIQ Impact Climate Equity Co-Lab portfolio organization, is out to change this.

In Nepal and other countries across the Global South, Build Change is harnessing the untapped potential of women, providing them with the training and employment support necessary to retrofit and build new, disaster-resilient infrastructure. They empower local communities by upskilling, training, and certifying local residents—particularly women—to become carpenters and masons. Build Change is just one of the ICONIQ Impact Climate Equity Co-Lab portfolio organizations helping women protect their lives and our planet through climate-related employment.

In India, Chintan is helping to upskill and return dignity to female waste-pickers; in Tanzania, Pastoral Women’s Council is educating Maasai women on solar panel installation and waste-powered energy; and across Asia, Central America, and South America, Build Change is training local women to construct disaster-resilient housing for their families . This week, we’re thrilled to showcase the work of these incredible organizations:

  • Chintan: Each year, India generates over 62 million tons of waste yet less than a quarter of it is processed and treated. India’s waste management sector lacks the formal systems necessary to process waste efficiently. In their absence, roughly 1.5 million informal waste-pickers have emerged. Waste-pickers are primarily unskilled women and children laborers living in urban slums. They use rudimentary—and often unsafe—processes to collect, segregate, and dispose of or sell waste. Chintan is helping to protect and upskill India’s waste-pickers by operating safe recycling centers at hotels and large university campuses across the country. They educate waste-pickers on safe, climate-friendly disposal practices to improve both their safety and profits. Additionally, Chintan offers education and skills training to the children of waste-pickers to help them escape the cycle of extreme poverty. More importantly, they advocate for policy-level changes to help promote the safety of workers and protect communities from the chemicals and pollutants of unmanaged waste.
  • Pastoral Women’s Council: Maasai pastoralists—particularly women—are among the most vulnerable groups in Tanzania. They rely on the land and its natural resources for survival but are routinely excluded from environmental decision-making processes, restricted from owning property, and denied access to education and financial support. The land’s natural resources are becoming more scarce as the climate warms and commercial development interests continue to encroach on Maasai land. With limited education and resources, Maasai women remain disempowered, voiceless, and vulnerable to ongoing colonization. Pastoral Women’s Council (PWC) educates Maasai women about their rights (e.g., land and property) and increases their representation and participation in local government. PWC also increases the community’s climate resilience by training young women on solar panel installation, waste-powered energy, and earth dam construction.
  • Build Change: It’s estimated that by 2030, nearly three billion people will have unsafe housing at risk of irreparable damage from a severe weather event. When natural disasters strike, those experiencing poverty are more likely to face consequences such as job loss, housing loss, and forced migration. Women are even more at risk; they are 14 times more likely to die in a natural disaster, more likely to be placed in unsafe temporary housing, and less likely to economically recover. Build Change provides direct, emergency support to communities in the wake of natural disasters by retrofitting homes and building new disaster-resistant infrastructure. They arm local community members, particularly women, with vocational training, increasing their pathways to greater economic opportunity. Most importantly, they partner with governments to support long-term disaster resiliency in the countries where they operate. Since Build Change’s inception, the organization has improved the safety of over 100,000 buildings and provided vocational training to nearly 90,000 people across Asia, Central and South America.
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