How do you set about mending the destruction caused by years of conflict and rebuilding your home, neighbourhood or city, when political instability make it impossible to get hold of the necessary resources? Two Gazan women set about doing just that, and have come up with a durable and affordable building block made out of waste materials: Greencake.
Whether we're currently hearing it in the news or not, destruction, poverty and high levels of unemployment continue to make life miserable for communities in Gaza. Political uncertainty and years of an Israeli blockade have not just prevented the reconstruction of homes and cities in Gaza, but are keeping its population in a permanent state of precariousness.
In addition to a lack of resources and construction materials, the local coal industry is highly polluting, and its ash by-product – over 600 million tonnes of which are generated each year in the region - has dire consequences for the environment and local water supplies. The waste ash is seen as an unusable by-product and is usually buried underground, where it quickly ends up penetrating the soil and directly contaminating the ground water.
The Two Women Reusing the "Unusable"
But now two Gazan women, Majid al-Mashrawi and Rawan Abdellatif, have come up with a solution to the materials shortages that plague their communities, and one which can also help reduce the environmental hazard posed by ash. They have created a lightweight and fire-resistant building block, which given its spongy texture and green colour, they have called Greencake.
Greencake does not use expensive or unavailable cement or sand, but instead is made of coal ash mixed with rubble materials, both of which are plentiful in Gaza. Majid's and Rawan's brick-formula means that the bricks can be easily and quickly produced locally, at low cost (each costs half the price of a conventional brick), all the while helping to improve their local environment, as well as bringing job opportunities to the area.
Greencake is not just a clever solution to a seemingly insurmountable issue, but is also testament to the courage and determination of two women who have faced numerous challenges in bringing their idea to life - asserting themselves as engineers and business women in the typically male-dominated construction world.
The initiative was a finalist in the Index Award 2017, an award for design solutions that improve lives.
You can watch a video about the initiative here: