15 March 2024, Geneva, Switzerland - To celebrate International Women’s Day, UNOSAT hosted on 8 March 2024 a powerful webinar aiming at promoting gender equality by inspiring young women to pursue careers in GIS. Let us have a look back on the insightful discussions and fruitful advice given to young women desiring to commit to a career in this industry during this special event.  

Kicking off the webinar with a message of empowerment, Olivier Van Damme, senior programme specialist at UNOSAT, declared,

A woman's place is wherever she wants to be!

This sentiment perfectly captured the spirit of the event: highlighting the inspiring journeys of three remarkable women who carved their paths in the world of GIS. 

Mihoko Kumamoto, director of UNITAR's Division for Prosperity, shared inspiring insights within her opening remarks. “Gender equality and the empowerment of women need support from everyone, not just women, but men from many different backgrounds”, stated Ms. Kumamoto. 

I am very, very happy to see not only female but also male colleagues supporting Women's Empowerment and gender equality,

concluded Ms Kumamoto before leaving the floor to Joy Papao, UNOSAT's GIS country expert from the Solomon Islands. 

Overcoming challenges 

Ms Papao recalled that one of the greatest challenges she faced as a woman in a male-dominated industry was the lack of representation.  

“Self-confidence and dedication, hard work, and seeking a supportive environment are some of the coping capacity strategies that helped me overcome these challenges. I am immensely proud to be back here to support my country, asserted Ms. Papao. She then highlighted the importance of self-confidence and perseverance, and how her work as a COVID-19 adviser was pivotal in supporting her home country, the Solomon Islands. 

I am truly a role model and a mentor for girls and women dreaming of a career in GIT here, encouraging women and girls through technology inclusion to pursue their career paths in this direction. And my best advice is to seize the opportunity with passion and perseverance.

Ms. Papao concluded by encouraging women to pursue GIS careers. 

A force for empowerment 

Fiona Mike, a promising figure in the field of marine and oceanic management in the Solomon Islands, is leveraging the power of GIS to make a difference. Assistant Lecturer at the University of the South Pacific, she was introduced to GIT and GIS in 2019. She attended three impactful in-country training sessions conducted by UNOSAT and funded by The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Norad. Five years later, she is using the knowledge and competencies acquired during UNOSAT’s training sessions in her field of research.  

For this series of training, we were only four females and there was quite a dominating number of males in the training”, recalled the scientist. “But over time, more space was made for women in the training, recognizing that women are also using GIT applications for their respective work and disciplines.

Ms. Mike acknowledged that the patriarchal structure within Solomon Islands society might be particularly challenging. However, she underlined that increasing female participation in the GIS field was a powerful force for empowerment. “By including more women in this space, we create new opportunities and dismantle traditional barriers, fostering a more equitable future,” she concluded. 

As more women enter the field, the future of GIS looks bright and promising. 

Leba Gaunavinaka possesses an outstanding 15 years of experience in the field of GIS and remote sensing technologies applied to environmental preservation. "In Fiji, women have made significant strides in the industry through the years. Women who entered the field earlier and broke barriers paved the way for future generations of women and girls in today's geospatial industry", recalled our in-country expert in Fiji, who represented UNOSAT and UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) at the Cop28, in November 2023. 

Women contribute to innovative solutions and inspire the next generation of GIS professionals. As more women enter the field, the future of GIS looks bright and promising,

concluded Ms Gaunavinaka.  

A beacon of inspiration for young women 

The webinar concluded with closing remarks from Luca Dell'Oro, chief of the disaster management and climate resilience section, and Khaled Mashfiq, UNOSAT’s regional liaison officer for Asia and Pacific. M. Dell’Oro emphasized the importance of gender equality and women's empowerment in the geospatial sector, highlighting UNOSAT's commitment to supporting these goals through capacity development activities. M. Mashfiq echoed this sentiment, praising the contributions of his female colleagues and emphasizing the need for more women in STEM fields to achieve sustainable development and bridge the gender gap. He concluded by encouraging women and girls to join the geospatial field, highlighting the opportunities and role models available. 

UNOSAT is proud to have hosted this empowering webinar celebrating Women in GIS. The insightful discussions from our esteemed speakers, Mihoko Kumamoto, Joy Papao, Leba Gaunavinaka, and Fiona Mike, inspire young women considering a career in this dynamic field. Their stories highlight the importance of perseverance, passion, and the value of supportive environments.  

UNOSAT remains committed to fostering gender equality in the geospatial industry. We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with these brilliant women and will continue to empower women around the world to achieve their full potential in GIS. 

Share with