Yasmeen Lari: Empowering women and protecting the environment through sustainable design

Yasmeen Lari: Empowering women and protecting the environment through sustainable design
Yasmeen Lari: Empowering women and protecting the environment through sustainable design

In South Asia, women have long been guardians of the home, community and planet. However, traditional cooking methods, such as open flames and wood-burning floor ovens, make them prone to burns, fires and respiratory problems. These methods also lead to environmental hazards such as air pollution and high fossil fuel consumption. Renowned Pakistani architect Yasmeen Lari has devised a solution: the Pakistani Chulah.

Source: Architectural Review/Youtube

The Pakistani Chulah is a smokeless, low cost mud lime plaster stove that protects both women and the environment. By elevating the furnace on the mud brick platform, Lari’s design provides a more hygienic and ventilated workstation while also protecting it from flooding. The stove uses half the amount of fuel normally required and can use clean-burning agricultural waste such as manure and sawdust bricks. This reduces the time women spend sourcing logs, prioritizes their comfort, and contributes to reducing their carbon footprint.

The eco-friendly design is part of Lari’s Barefoot Architecture project, which enables illiterate women to build stoves using natural materials and local practices. By leveraging local expertise and training, Lari’s projects provide women with a sustainable source of income and support a gender-responsive economy.

Larry’s humanitarian work extends beyond Chula, Pakistan. She designs basic infrastructure that meets the social, emotional and physical needs of women, including shelter, clean water, safe toilets, healthy cooking facilities and community spaces. In doing so, Larry challenges traditional notions of women’s public spaces in Pakistan while remaining culturally sensitive.

Her work could be labeled “ecofeminist” for addressing the needs of women and the planet at the same time. Ecofeminist analysis explores the parallels between women in all aspects of society and nature. By combining feminism and environmentalism, ecofeminism promotes respect for women and the environment.

In Pakistan, one of the top 10 most climate-affected countries, Lari’s work enables the construction of flood-resistant and climate-friendly housing using cost-effective and ecological local building techniques. Through her Heritage Foundation and Center for Zero Carbon Culture, women are trained to make bricks, chulahs and houses, while also learning traditional craft techniques such as making eco-friendly tiles.

Yasmeen Lari’s architecture is an act of love for the planet and the lives of women in Pakistan. She sets a precedent for architects and activists to learn from and encourage them to use their design skills to address pressing social issues. Let’s take a cue from Yasmeen Lari and think about how we can use our unique capabilities to support a more sustainable and inclusive world. Now is the time for a change!

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