The GIS (Geographic Information Systems) space in Kenya is a relatively new field, encompassing the field of geospatial information including Geospatial Information Systems. Caroline Akoth and May Kitiyo are the co- founders of Women in GIS (WiGIS) initiative in Kenya, an a non-profit organization that aims at creating a community of visionary women in Geospatial Technlogy to bridge the gender divide in use of technology.
The professionals in the GIS space have vast knowledge and skills in the techniques for spatial data acquisition, processing, manipulation, analysis, modeling and dissemination. This results in data and information that can be visualized in various forms and used to support decisions for problems that are location related.
In a rather male dominated field, Mary Kitiyo, co-founder and Strategy Lead WiGIS Kenya, said that their initiative has worked with other groups like META series, to bring to life the vision of a GIS women community. “We founded the initiative to to bring together women professionals in the field, to build talent and encourage uptake of STEM courses in Kenya. Our mission is to create a community of visionary women in Geospatial Technology to to bring more women in the field, and to celebrate women in GIS and encourage other women and girls involvement in the field,” she added.
WiGIS uses 3 pillars to accomplish its vision and mission
- Learn – The initiative aspires to learn from and share our technical knowledge with diversity and inclusivity at the forefront.
- Network – They hope to create lasting connections and a strong community to exchange ideas and bring changes in the spatial world.
- Succeed – They also aspire to create a community of visionary women who map to change the world.
On her part, Carol, co-founder and Advocacy and Operations Lead of the initiative said, “By the time we were starting, there wasn’t a clear trajectory of people in our industry. None of us knew what exactly we could specialize in. We did not have broader conversations on the opportunities that were available. Over time, however, we have been able to work in diverse areas like retail. The initiative has helped us build on a base and foundation to help us branch out and diversify in the market.”
WiGIS has also participated in diverse social gatherings, professional development and education events for networking and mentoring, focusing on the following objectives.
- To provide a mentorship platform for Women in GIS in Kenya.
- To organize events and knowledge transfer sessions aimed at improving knowledge and application of GIS to solve problems facing women in Kenya.
- To strengthen professional skills of women in GIS Community.
- To enable the Women in GIS Community to apply GIS, Data Analysis and Visualization skills to improve their socio-economic dynamics.
Carol and May further called on other people in Tech and GIS to join the movement to create awareness around the community and its role in the community. They have also encourage new graduands, both male and female, to join them and help in the growth of their industry.