Gender in Geographic Information System (GIS), though new, plays a significant role in helping disaster risk management, and reducing environmental and climate change impacts in vulnerable areas, say two women researchers of a international institute working in the Himalayas.
Talk of gender in GIS is new. Until now, practical work on geospatial has been seen only as an analysis of high resolution images to discern land use and land cover, Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)said in a statement.
Citing researchers Chhaya Vani Namchu and Menaka Hamal, both working on gender data in the Hindu Kush, the ICIMOD said spatial study from a gendered lens is necessary, especially in Himalayan or rural contexts where climate induced change and corporate globalisation have led to migration, particularly of men.
According to the two researchers, a feminisation of responsibilities has taken place, leaving women not only with the burden of more work, but also with independence.
Gender in GIS also serves to illustrate distribution and access to resources, which in turn helps bringing socio-economic issues and disparities between men and women in the areas concerned to light, they said.
On the eve of International Women's Day on March 8, Namchu and Hamal say their choice to work on gender, and more specifically on gender in the Himalayas, stems from the need for representation.
"When we first started our careers in gender, backed by our degrees in women's studies, development, and natural resource management, we were challenged by the difficulty of trying to explain to people the nature of our work without being misunderstood," they said, the according to ICIMOD statement.
"The first impression most people had of us was that we would 'teach' feminism and ask communities to discard cultural norms, gender roles, and traditionally accepted structures and practices," they said.
A career in gender is one that is both challenging and fulfilling, and absolutely necessary too.
"The decision to work in gender for many of us arises out of the necessity to open a different perspective into an ever evolving world where we are both progressing and regressing. By far, the most exciting thing about working on gender is that we get to aunlearn' and learn in equal measure."
"But the study of and work on gender cannot fit into a monolithic identity. It is hence necessary to have men and women from different experiences, contexts and cultures contribute to the birth of new discourses," the researchers believe.
Moreover, a career in gender is not limited to the social sciences.
It is relevant to other disciplines and sectors as well.
"Here, based on our experience working at the ICIMOD, we take examples from two traditionally male-dominated disciplines which are treated as gender neutral and adopted as crucial components in the organisation."
Economics is another discipline where gender has proven pertinent.
Dialogues on gender and economics first brought the issue of unpaid labour into discussion.
This is how work done by the women in the form of household chores and taking care of family members came to be recognised as "work". Even so, women's work until now has been largely invisible, and their contributions have not been recognised in economic discourse.
The involvement of economics in gender and vice versa brought awareness regarding how traditional work hours have always enabled men to work in public spaces and succeed in the alabour market, the ICIMOD said citing th two researchers.
They say professionals who work in economics and gender help bring out gender disaggregated data, which in the past was not considered important in research analysis.