An engineer graduate Majd Mashharawi has broken all stereotypes and gave a second chance to isolated and destroyed city. Her inventive initiative allows to rebuild Gaza with its own war ashes.

Majd Mashharawi is a 23-year-old recent engineer graduate from a country overtaken by gender bias. She has grown up in Gaza, place, today, as one of the most dangerous, isolated and desperate. Despite these obstacles, the young Palestinian girl was able to apply her skills to revive her motherland. She tries to focus on understanding engineering in a creative way.

She is always promising that she will leave this world making an unforgettable change and she already did! – description of Indiegogo campaign.

On the edge of despair

During the years of the Israeli-Egyptian conflict, Gaza stood in the midst of two fires. During the siege of 2014, the city was destroyed to ashes, leaving thousands of people homeless. In such conditions, where there is no access to heating, the displaced population died on the streets. The only refuge is fragile, harmful buildings from conquered iron. The critical state remains so far, according to the reports of the United Nations.

From 2014 until now in 2017, there are some houses that are still destroyed and their owners cannot get any building materials due to this situation.

The situation is exacerbated by the restrictions imposed by the parties involved in the conflict. The reconstruction of the city is slowed down due to limited access to building materials. Construction materials were banned entry into Gaza a decade ago when Israel labeled them “dual use” and argued that they could be used to build bunkers or for other military purposes. In particular, there are restrictions on the amount of cement transported across the Palestinian border. For this reason, quality cement bricks are literally worthy as gold. By this time, Gaza has less than half the cement needed for reconstruction, and only a fifth of the buildings have already been rebuilt.

Green Cake

A new initiative of ‘’green’’ bricks allows to overcome the pressure of import requirements. Majd Mashharawi and her partner Rawan Abdulatif (no longer involved) started developing construction materials that will be available at a price without loss of quality meanwhile. A city that has experienced more than one war in a decade will be able to find a second wind.

Initially, the girls tried to use paper, but this method was even more expensive, although it was useful for the environment. The introduction of clay even required a lot of money, especially with regard to energy consumption. This gave rise to a new idea.

According to statistics, more than a thousand kilograms of ashes are daily produced in Gaza, which are buried in the sand, endangering the environment. Mashharawi suggests using these wastes of restaurants and plants for recycling. Later they will be part of the ”green” bricks. This will not only help to rebuild the city, but also fight against harm to the ecological condition of the city.

I thought this is a good idea because it won’t be just applicable in Gaza, but all over the world.

From idea to mass production

The path from the idea to its successful implementation required a lot of effort. For months, often doubted by their community, they researched how to substitute rock and sand with coal ash and concrete rubble to make lightweight bricks. Even when, following many unsuccessful experiments, the engineer received an externally successful sample, during the test at the local factory it proved to be fragile. Around 100 samples were unsuitable for use.

Palestinian girls were laughed at for their attempts. Due to ruling gender stereotypes they did not get support, most people made fun of women’s attempts to get involved in brutal construction. Even relatives told Majd the words like ‘Instead of wasting your life doing your blocks, go and get married”. But Mashrawi did not lose her motivation.

Every time we failed I reminded myself that in order to achieve success we have to overcome these obstacles and delete the word failure from the dictionary.

The search for the right solution took many months. What does it mean to be right? Finally, the sample withstood the pressure of required 3 megapascals during a compressive strength test. The students started to develop the prototype in August 2014, and by early 2015, had a working prototype of what they call GreenCake. The cost of the ordinary block is more than double the cost of GreenCake blocks. This year, the project received a push to move to the stage of mass production.

Japanese push

Green Cake participated in the Japan Gaza Innovation Challenge, whose sponsors help young people in isolated Gaza to be economically independent in the embodiment of their ideas. Particular attention is paid to start-ups, which are aimed at improving the state of the environment and benefit the society. Samples of green bricks were tested in Japanese laboratories, where Mashami worked with local engineers to improve the model.

They asked me, ‘What do you want?’ I told them I want more knowledge about material science, about testing, about the engineering business, and this is what I’ll get from them.

The Mashhawari project took the first place. She promised to use won money to lease the premises of the factory, which will carry out the production of these lightweight and environmentally friendly bricks. In 2016, with the help of the business incubator Mobaderoon III, Green Cake was able to place the first customer orders. The design is also a finalist in the 2017 Index Award. Today, Mashhawari can afford not only to rent factory space, but also to hire 10 people at a time.

If you want to do something, you have to believe it and do it with faith… because you’re the only person responsible for the future.

Now Mashharawi seeks to find investment for further expansion. GreenCake has already launched a crowdfunding campaign. Also, the founder is attending a fellowship in Boston for young business start-upers. She aims not only to introduce American experience, but also maintain dialogue with local business sharks. What for? To create ways of interaction for other innovators from Gaza.

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