For Immediate Release - In April 2023, a self-funded team of 12 women, under the banner of ‘HER Planet Earth’ - a non-profit organisation headquartered in Singapore dedicated to gender equality and environmental conservation - will trek across the Knuckles Mountain Range of Sri Lanka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The objective of the expedition is to raise awareness and funds (a team total of $50,000 USD) for the economic empowerment of women affected by climate change in Sri Lanka. The team plans to cover a total distance of 150km (100km on foot in 4 days and 50km on bike), and summit Gombaniya (1,906m), the highest peak of the range, as the largest all-female team to ever attempt this route.
HER Planet Earth, now in its sixth year of operation, raises awareness and funds via expeditionary travel across the globe. Past expeditions have taken all-female teams to remote islands in Asia, to the highlands of Africa, to Mountains in the heart of Antarctica, across the Arctic Circle Trail of Greenland and to the largest caves in the world in Vietnam. Pioneering in nature, the group’s initiatives support organisations that champion for gender equality and the empowerment of women affected by climate change. In the past decade, climate related disasters have led to the loss of 700 thousand lives, affected 1.7 billion people and led to economic losses of USD 1.4 trillion. As a result, women and girls have experienced the greatest impacts of climate change which continues to amplify existing gender inequalities and pose unique threats to their livelihoods, health, and safety.
Global data and research reveal the clear correlation between gender inequality and climate change. In view of this, the team will raise funds for UN Women Sri Lanka to support research at the local level which will help understand the linkages between women’s empowerment and climate change, and to better inform policymaking in the country. The funds will further support UN Women’s programmes in Sri Lanka on women’s climate resilience and economic empowerment.
Speaking on the issue, Prashani Dias, Head of Office a.i. at UN Women Sri Lanka said, "The effects of climate change are not uniform and they affect people differently. That is why it is important to look at climate change through the lens of intersectional feminism. This will help understand how different groups of people - including women with disabilities, migrant women and those living in rural, and disaster-prone areas - are affected, which will in turn help develop tailored solutions to improve their livelihoods, health, safety and security."
Why Sri Lanka?
Ninety-six per cent of disasters in Sri Lanka are caused by extreme weather events, such as flooding, landslides, extreme winds, and drought. Sri Lanka was ranked the fourth most climate change prone country according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2018. Consequently, it necessitates stronger disaster preparedness and proper interventions to build resistance in response to climate change. Roughly 50 percent of its 22 million citizens live in low-lying coastal areas in the west, south, and south-west of the island, and are at risk of future sea level rise.
As an island country heavily dependent on agriculture, Sri Lanka is highly vulnerable to multiple impacts of climate change. The fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that South Asia including Sri Lanka is vulnerable to drought, flood, food shortages and heat-related mortality. Sri Lanka has been experiencing severe shifts in its seasonal rainfall patterns accompanied by increased flood and drought in the last decade directly impacting rural food security, incomes, and plantation related export earnings. About 5.2 million people — equivalent to a quarter of the population — are estimated to be undernourished. Almost 80 per cent of Sri Lankans living in poverty are from rural areas and depend on agriculture for food and income. This persistence of rural poverty, indebtedness, and vulnerability, high youth unemployment at 19 per cent, low participation of women in the labour force and large-scale migration in search of employment all indicate a high level of unevenness in growth and opportunity across the provinces and districts.
The global climate crisis has exacerbated gender inequality around the world. Women are often more vulnerable than men to climate variability and extremes based on a variety of factors, including socially constructed roles and responsibilities, limited access to and control over resources, muted voices in decision-making, restricted rights, and limited access to education. All these factors hinder women's contributions and participation in climate action.
“Underprivileged women are most at risk from environmental stresses caused by the increased frequency and intensity of climate-induced droughts, floods, heatwaves, deforestation, and the accompanying scarcity of natural resources, given that they have access to even fewer opportunities and resources. These issues are particularly relevant in South Asia, the world’s most densely populated region, and spans climate corridors that often create devastating storms. The pandemic and the resulting economic fallout of the past few years have only exacerbated the regressive effects of gender inequality in South Asia overall. This is why, we need to strengthen women’s climate resiliency urgently,” said HER Planet Earth Founder, Christine Amour-Levar.
The Team’s Journey
For this next expedition - HER Planet Earth’s ninth to date - the team will travel to central Sri Lanka in the district of Matale and Kandy, to reach the Knuckles Mountain Range. The range takes its name from a series of recumbent folds and peaks in the west of the massif which resemble the knuckles of clenched fist when viewed from a certain angle and distance. Whilst this name was assigned by early British surveyors, the Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka have traditionally referred to the area as Dumbara Kanduvetiya meaning Mist-laden Mountain Range.
The higher mountainous area is often robed in thick layers of cloud. In addition to its aesthetic value, the range is of great scientific interest. It is a climatic microcosm of the rest of Sri Lanka as the conditions of all the climate zones in the country are exhibited in the massif. Although the range constitutes approximately 0.03% of the island's total area, it is home to a significantly higher proportion of the country's biodiversity. More than 34 percent of Sri Lanka's endemic trees, shrubs, and herbs are only found in these forests. Knuckles Conservation Forest was included in UNESCO natural world heritage list in 2010 as part of Central Highlands of Sri Lanka.
The HER Planet Earth team will also attempt to summit Gombaniya (1,906m), the highest peak of the range, and will sleep in tents at Knuckles Base Camp. Gombaniya is covered with many trees and plants including thickly grown bamboo. A river named “Kuda Oya” flows between Gombaniya and the surrounding mountains. While hiking in the range, the team will also stop at the beautiful Rangala Natural Pool which is 35 feet deep in parts (10 metres) and surrounded by tea estates.
After the hike the women will cycle 50km across the Hanthana Mountain Range, an environmental protection area adjacent to the Knuckles Mountain Range. This route will take the team through the tea plantation estates and culminate with a visit of the Forest Healing Project for a tree planting initiative. The Forest Healing Project is an NGO focused on protecting and restoring forests in Sri Lanka.
HER Planet Earth’s objective is to inspire people to leave their comfort zones, families, and homes for a certain period, while pushing their limits in an effort to rally support for a worthy cause. At the core of its culture is a commitment to empower underprivileged women, a passion for adventure and a deep respect and love of nature. HER Planet Earth seeks to take participants on pioneering expeditions around the world, so that they can make new discoveries, flourish as individuals, but most importantly, contribute to society. The team hopes to bring international attention to the need for societies, governments, and corporations to get involved and help support climate action and women empowerment.
NOTES TO EDITORS
About HER Planet Earth
HER Planet Earth is non-profit organisation headquarter in Singapore that aims to empower women to mitigate climate change. One of its core objectives is to inspire more women to become policymakers and agents of change to achieve social and economic equity and a healthy and thriving planet. HER Planet Earth organises challenging, often pioneering, self-funded expeditions around the world to increase awareness on environmental degradation and raise funds for programmes that empower and educate underprivileged women affected by climate change - ultimately helping them build climate change resilience. The organisation partners with nature lovers, environmentalists, scientists, polar explorers, adventurers, women’s rights advocates, corporates, tech entrepreneurs, feminists and charities that have programmes and structures in place dedicated to building a deeper connection between gender equality, genuinely sustainable development, and the protection of the environment.
About UN Women Sri Lanka
UN Women is the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. In Sri Lanka, UN Women supports the development of national policies and standards, as well as Sri Lanka's commitments to monitor and report against these international standards, towards sustained global progress. Find out more here
The team of this HER Planet Earth Sri Lanka 2023 Expedition is formed by 12 intrepid women of diverse nationalities and backgrounds. While they are all incredibly well accomplished in their careers, they are equally passionate about protecting the environment and empowering underprivileged women. To read the team bios please click here.
To donate to the mission please visit the team’s fundraising page here.
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