The inequalities between men and women reveal themselves in often the weirdest of places. One of these areas which you would not have imagined but is very prominent is in the area of cartography.
Admittedly, the majority of mappers today are men. OpenStreetMap, which is the world’s biggest crowdsourced map and has 1.4 million members has only 13% women.
However, there are many problems associated with this. Thankfully, a group of women have also worked out a possible solution.
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS IN CARTOGRAPHY?
Firstly, it is important to understand the reasons why women remain grossly underrepresented. It highlights a trend where women are not able to have more free time on their hands due to household responsibilities. Secondly, it is also because of the lower access to technology for women.
There are far-reaching consequences of this. Often, most maps aren’t able to satisfy the requirements of women. For instance, women need areas like public washrooms more due to menstrual problems, but maps being made majorly by men tend to overlook these issues. The sheer experiences of women are absent from these mapping activities.
A group of mappers called Geochicas came up in 2016 to close the gender gap on OpenStreetMap. Today, the group has about 230 women volunteers in 22 countries, many in Latin America hoping to voice female concerns.
“The [mapping] community is still overwhelmingly male and this means that women’s needs, interests and experiences are not reflected on maps,” said Yeliz Osman, a gender violence expert at UN Women. “When women map, they are more likely than men to represent women’s specific needs and priorities, which is key to driving changes in local policies, plans and budgets.”
It has been shown that these women are more sensitive to needs such as hospitals, childcare services, toilets, domestic violence services and women’s health clinics. In addition, they also put a measure of the safety concerns of the area. This is because of the experiences that women generally have of sexual harassment.
Truly, it is a noble initiative that requires worldwide replication. Only then can we aim for a really equal society.