Women and FOSS4G / HOT Summit in Africa

I had the privilege last summer of attending State of the Map Africa, and getting some insight into the status of OpenStreetMap on the continent. This year, almost as a followup, FOSS4G Dar es Salaam was held in conjunction with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team’s Summit. And so it was that FOSS4G this year was one part FOSS4G, one part HOT, and one part Tanzania, all mixed up in wonderful ways.

It is always interesting the intersection of perception and reality. To me, the following are the faces of OpenStreetMap and mapping in Africa, because these are some of the folks I have had the pleasure to interact with:

  • Nathalie SIDIBE from OSM Mali and HOT board
  • Gertrude¬†NAMITALA from OSM Zambia and HOT board
  • Dorica MUGUSI from HOT Tanzania (not pictured)
  • Laura MUGEHA from Youth Mappers (Kenya, if memory serves)
  • Tubo WAREKUROMOR from Nigeria
  • Millie TEBUSABWA from Uganda
  • Anthonia ONYEAHIALAM from Nigeria/Wales (pictured in previous post)
  • Khadija Abdulla ALI from Zanzibar

But perception in this case is strongly mitigated by hard work done to bring representation. What follows is a blog post by Janet CHAPMAN of Crowd2Map Tanzania. It’s part history, part call to action. Please read!:


When I first heard that FOSS4G was going to be held in Dar es Salaam, I was excited but worried that the tickets would be too expensive for any of our community mappers to attend. I hoped that one or two might be able to come if we submitted a talk.
In the end 20 crowd2mappers were able to participate and we gave a a keynote about using maps to help end FGM, a group presentation about our work training local mapping groups and delivered two practical workshops. Many of our mappers travelled for 48 hours on a bus, for the first time to Dar es Salaam. At the first gathering, a womens’ support event organised by GeoChicas, many were overwhelmed by the range of strong female role models from all over the world.
For a technical conference, it was amazing that all the keynotes were by women. For rural women with extremely limited opportunities for networking or training participating was a once in a lifetime experience for which they were extremely grateful.
We held a workshop in which African women outlined some of the additional challenges they face when mapping and some suggestions of how the global community can better support them. Some of the issues they face, such as men telling them they should be doing housework, refusing to give them permission, to physical harassment and threats are hard to comprehend for people unfamiliar with such environments. Their recommendations are below.
At the end of the conference there was a surprise announcement – $15,000 of the surplus was to be given to Crowd2Map to continue our community mapping. (This is 3 times the size of our previous funding from the HOT microgrant so a very big deal) .
There was further good news in that we have been asked to participate in a side event at the United Nations General Assembly this month in New York, and to organise a mapathon against FGM for UN staff there, as well as a concurrent global mapathon where we hope to involve every country where FGM is still an issue. We hope you will join us.

How can the community better support us:

  • Increasing the funds available specifically for women, including travel grants
  • Giving counselling and mentoring to disadvantaged groups such as rural women.
  • Giving security guidance and equipment so women can better protect themselves when mapping in remote locations.
  • Working with educational institutions to start educating girls in mapping and technology early
  • Create more materials on the impact of maps for development, particularly with a focus on women.
  • Provide guidance on good practice in involving leaders at all levels to raise awareness of the benefits of mapping.
  • Providing more training specifically aimed at women.
  • Targeting advertising of training and other opportunities at women.
  • Include the need to advocate for change in our policies.
  • Setting up networks so we can better support each other, for example Geochicas and other networking events at conferences, WhatsApp or Slack groups.

So, there we are — a little history of how this all came together, and a call to action for us as a global community. I thank all involved in FOSS4G this year for their dedication to making the conference so accessible and setting a standard for how we should picture who makes and uses the Map.

Also: come to the FGM mapping event in New York!, Friday 28 September: Global Mapathon to help end female genital mutilation (FGM)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s