A self-funded team of 12 women from around the world trekked across the phenomenal Laugavegur region in Southern Iceland last week, raising over S$50,000 in the process, for underprivileged women affected by climate change.
The group under the banner of HER Planet Earth, a Singapore-based NGO that promotes female empowerment and environmental conservation, spent a week traversing one of the most active, volcanic and alien landscapes of Iceland, on the very edge of the Laugahraun lava field, an area originally formed by an eruption in 1477.
"We chose Iceland because it is one of the countries already feeling the brunt of climate change. In fact, land in Iceland is rising at an average of 1.4 inches per year in certain areas, as a result of climate change. The melting of the country's glaciers reduces pressure on the land below and allows the surface to rise. This changing geography is another tangible showcase of the effects of global warming," said Christine Amour-Levar, Founder of HER Planet Earth.
During the journey, the all-female team hiked over stunning blue glaciers, black sandy deserts and multicoloured mountains. As they made their way to the heart of this geothermal wonderland, they discovered glittering obsidian lava fields, pristine waterfalls and steaming hot geysers with their bubbling sulphuric acid pools.
The women camped outdoors throughout the trek and experienced a range of temperatures from beautiful sunny days, to cold, windy and rainy spells with 5-6°C temperatures for the most part. Hiking for about 10 hours per day on average, the team covered close to 80km of undulating mountainous terrain, crossing many freezing rivers in the processes. They experienced an ever changing micro-climate, which culminated in the team's early evacuation on the last day, as 51km/h gale-force winds started battering the mountains, forcing the climbers to seek shelter.
What is the issue and why does it matter?
In many countries around the world, women are among the most vulnerable to climate change and environmental degradation, partly because women make up the larger share of the agricultural workforce and tend to have access to fewer income-earning jobs.
In the past decade, disasters have led to the loss of 700 thousand lives, 1.7 billion people affected and economic losses of USD 1.4 trillion. These effects disproportionately affect women and girls: multiple discriminations mean that women are more vulnerable in crises and post disasters situations.
In view of this, all proceeds from the expedition will go to UN Women UK, a charity dedicated to empowering women globally by removing the barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential. The funds raised will be allocated to programmes focused on the economic empowerment of women in rural areas of Asia, notably in Bangladesh, Nepal and Vietnam. This will include safe houses for women and girls in these countries, and will be used to send 70 girls to leadership courses, so that they may be empowered and supported to respond to community challenges.
Ultimately, the team wants to use this expedition to highlight that gender often remains the untold story behind climate change. While climate change is a global phenomenon, its effects are felt locally, and poor people suffer the most - among the world’s 1.3 billion poor people, the majority are women.
To see more pictures of the team's expedition to Iceland, please click here.
To make a donation to the team's fundraising page for UN Women UK, please click here.
Expedition Partners: Just Challenge
Teammates: Isabella Ma, Enkhtur Maini, Sabina Wong Sutch, Ada Loi, Barbara Fras, Anne Stauffer, Carole Eeckhaute, Erika Switzer-Masiero, Isabelle Valentine, Christine Hart, Jen Abbey and Christine Amour-Levar