How geospatial technologies can help in achieving gender equality

How geospatial technologies can help in achieving gender equality


Spatial patterns in socioeconomic data reveal issues and trends that would otherwise be missed by data aggregation to political or other units. As GIS helps communicate spatial trends like women living near the road working longer days, and men near the road participating more in typically female tasks such as collecting drinking water, key issues get quantified and investigated more effectively.

GIS for gender equality

In Nepal, GIS has been used extensively for development applications. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) for example, has a well-staffed GIS department that is doing a sophisticated spatial analysis. In a recent study, ICIMOD used GIS to map indicators of development at the district level. This project used a breadth of variables such as literacy rates, population density, agricultural credit, and slope steepness to construct a development index for each district. The districts were then ranked in order of most to least developed.

Officials at ICIMOD say, “Informing our geographic information systems with feminist theory could create a gendered GIS to help the impoverished. This process starts with the research questions we ask, moves into the data we collect and is finalized in the graphic representations we produce. GIS has characteristics inherent in its structure that make it possible to produce gendered knowledge that can help women.”

Better land rights for women

Land provides a major source of income, and inequity in land distribution translates into economic disparity. Technology is important for securing land rights across the world today. Geospatial technology can be used to better define problems and identify ways to best solve them. For example, in Tanzania, USAID tested a mobile application called MAST (Mobile Application to Secure Tenure) for better land governance. In the absence of readily-available land surveyors, the mobile platform technology was able to map a community’s land of 1,000 plots in four weeks. The immediate result of this was that from zero women having any land ownership there was 40% women boasting of land ownership. Another 30% land went under joint titling, and the remaining 30% under male ownership. It is a right that people had never had before.

Land tenure and land security are a priority in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Technology is the most cost-effective model that we can utilize to achieve these SDGs considering the magnitude of the problem. More than 90% of the African continent still does not have a formal title or any type of recognized secure tenure to land. To solve this problem in the next 15 years, technology is going to play a prime role.

Reducing maternal mortality rates

GIS applied to maternal and neonatal health data could help in ending preventable maternal and newborn mortality. The global focus has now shifted to the achievement of the SDGs which similarly propose to improve maternal health and reduce mortality to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by and reduce neonatal mortality to at least 12 per 1,000 live births in 2030. Achieving these goals will require national maternal and newborn health (MNH) programs to address underlying, localized inequalities.

gisGIS holds substantial potential for supporting efforts to end preventable maternal and newborn deaths. Realizing this potential will require improved access to high quality MNH data at needed resolutions for decision makers at multiple levels, increased understanding of and skills in using both the software and the maps for planning and implementing MNH programs, and consistent involvement of the community-in the mapping process as well as in the use of high resolution maps.

Nullifying human trafficking

Geospatial technologies can be used to disrupt the market of trafficking through uncovering the location of traffickers. Satellite imagery is playing a significant role in achieving this. For example, using its satellite images, DigitalGlobe was able to spot slave ships in the seas. DigitalGlobe also investigates brick kilns in India and fisheries on Lake Volta in Ghana, two major industries where child labor exists.

Geospatial technology can also lead to a way out from trafficking. For instance, a report from the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and PolicyTechnology and Labor Trafficking in a Network Society, describes the story of a woman from the Philippines who was stranded in Malaysia and deceived by traffickers. She was thrown in prison and interrogated, but the Philippine government was able to intervene and help her because she had hidden a phone in her jail cell.

Though the role of gender in GIS is new, gender in GIS can serve to illustrate distribution and access to resources, which in turn can help in solving varied bringing socio-economic issues and reduce disparities between men and women.