International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on March 8 to honor the achievements of women all around the world. IWD has been observed since 1911 and remains significant in driving positive change for women.
RCMRD Director General Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza said, "Today, RCMRD salutes our women in the earth observation field. "We celebrate women's contributions to society and raise awareness about the fight for gender parity. Women comprise more than half of the working population here and elsewhere, and their active involvement matters."
Through RCMRD, many women and girls have been empowered. Women have embraced technology within the RCMRD community. But how exactly are technology and innovation supporting women in the geospatial and earth observation sector in their daily work and improving their livelihoods?
In honor of this day at RCMRD, we took the opportunity to highlight some stakeholders, including beneficiaries, students, and staff members. These members share some perspectives on being a woman in earth observation (E.O.) and the geospatial space and advise women in the field or those starting in the discipline.
For Ms. Priscilla Ndelitowike Heita from Namibia, RCMRD assisted has assisted her DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality journey by sponsorship her to showcase my DigitALL achievement to the world: "I modeled and predicted the future development of informal human settlements in Windhoek, Namibia by 2050 using the earth observation and geospatial science technology. "RCMRD granted me this opportunity at the RCMRD International Conference (RIC) 2022.
I advise young women thinking about their careers that only your mind can limit your goals, dear girl-child, exit the comfort zone and be a go-getter. Every woman is innovative: if you can mix salt, spice, and water to produce soap, you accomplish your goals with DigitALL. Remember, everything begins with the idea that comes to pass, referred to as "INNOVATION," adds Priscilla.
Ms. Shukuru Nyagawa of E-Link Consult Ltd in Tanzania, a beneficiary and partner of many RCMRD projects, advises women to stay focused and courageous and associate with the right groups of people in pursuing their dreams. She says interventions should be made at multiple levels, from promoting gender equity at home, gender sensitivity at educational institutions, and gender inclusivity in the workplace. "RCMRD has contributed strongly to my professional growth. Since 2017, I have been involved in various GIS trainings, which broadened my understanding, knowledge and capacity to conduct my work, especially natural resources and climate change assessment works. The tools shared and network of professional established have made things easier for me."
Ms. Shukuru Nyagawa of E-Link Consult Ltd in Tanzania
Uganda's Dr. Jane Bemigisha, the Executive Director of ESIPPS International Ltd, leads various support efforts on Gender and Women in Science. The nature of my work in Earth Observation and Geoinformation is going more and more digital in how we build, access, manage, share, and use mapping tech technologies for sustainable development. RCMRD is an institution that saw the birthing of a geo-information career for me. In 1991, with kind support from UNEP and UNITAR, I was instructed in the training course, a three-month training on Geographical Information Systems and Remote Sensing. I am forever grateful and proud as an RCMRD old girl among only two women that attended from Eastern and Southern Africa.
She urges women to embrace education, training, and careers in Earth Observation and Geo-information science. These technologies are powerful tools for planning to support planning and decision-making on the growing rate of degradation and decimation of the natural resource base, which is the back born of economies, especially in Africa. "Higher representation means an upper hand in planning action; I encourage women to choose EO/GI entrepreneurship and seek partnerships with regional and international institutions such as RCMRD to learn and be nurtured. The digital revolution offers transformative opportunities for the empowerment of women and girls. Increasing their access to economic, educational, and social opportunities within technology can unlock their potential and that of their communities and societies.
Two winners of the RCMRD Map Competition 2022, Dr. Lauren Williams, a Scientist (Geospatial) working on Oceans Research, South Africa, and Mary Isabell Akoth of Kenya, added their opinion with Dr. Lauren Williams, a Scientist (Geospatial) working on Oceans Research saying she works in the technology space where knowledge is power. "I do not get distracted by the stereotypes or what a woman's job should be. Additionally RCMRD provides a range of learning opportunities, but for me, I derived the most value from their geoportal and access to data that I otherwise may not have been aware of." The geoportal, she says, fills a data and technology gap by providing me with resources to help me do a better job, as regional data is essential for coherent planning. Therefore, I can provide better products and information to support decision-making processes. Dr. Williams advises young women to be kind and supportive to those around them because we are all on our journey. "We all stumble and fall, but what matters are the lessons we learn from those moments and how we pick ourselves up and move forward. At this very moment, you are where you need to be, and you are enough."
Dr. Lauren Williams a Scientist (Geospatial) working on Oceans Research, South Africa
According to Mary Isabell Akoth from Kenya, RCMRD has helped her a lot in her "DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality" journey in several ways, including through its training and capacity-building initiatives. The organization provides various training programs, conferences, and workshops on geospatial technologies, which have assisted me in honing the skills essential for using innovation and technology tools. "Additionally, RCMRD have provided me with access to GIS datasets and resources to help in developing innovative solutions through geospatial technologies allowing the organization to advance gender equality and other development objectives."
She urges fellow youth to seek out mentors and role models who can offer guidance and support. "Don't be afraid to ask for help or advice when you need it. Remember that your career is just one part of your life. It's important to maintain a balance between your work and your personal life, and to prioritize your health and well-being."