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This Kenya non-profit is shrinking the gap for women in GIS

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Women in GIS, Kenya (WiGISKe) is changing Africa for good, and they’re using their skills in geographic information systems (GIS) to tackle issues affecting women and girls in Kenya.

Among these issues is the right to feel safe in public transit.

“I feel unsafe when I’m in a matatu or cab with tinted windows, heavy graffiti and playing loud music,” said one of the 30 participants in a workshop WiGISKe hosted in 2022.

To bring attention to how unique needs cut across different gender identities in urban mobility, and with CPCS’s support and deep expertise in transportation, WiGISKe is providing free training workshops on the power of data to help make public transit safer for girls and women in Nairobi.

“What WiGISKe does is near and dear to me”, says Caroline Akoth, its co-founder and spatial data scientist at CPCS, a global management consultancy specializing in infrastructure like roads, ports and electric facilities.

More women in STEM jobs

Caroline says she wants to see more girls and women pursue a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

That was her vision for WiGISKe. Now, the non-profit bridges the gap between what’s taught in schools and the knowledge the workforce requires, while advocating for more women in science.

WiGISKe naturally grew interested in exploring serious topics like teenage pregnancy and most recently the safety and security of women in public transportation.

“I didn’t learn about tools like GIS or Python when I was in school, so early on I didn’t get exposed to what the corporate world needs. Through WiGISKe, I gained practical experience and discovered unconventional work opportunities,” says Yariwo Kitiyo, Data and Innovation Lead in WiGISKe.

Practical workshops in transport and analytics

To develop a thorough survey during the data collection workshop, participants were asked their thoughts on public transit safety to and from Nairobi’s Business District.

Some participants anonymously said:

“I feel unsafe in transit when I’m in in an overloaded Matatu at night.”

“I feel unsafe when the Uber/ Bolt takes a route I am unfamiliar with.”

“I feel unsafe when there’s few men inside a matatu, seated in random positions.”

The survey was sent out for responses following the workshop and results will be used for the data analysis workshop. 

The keynote speakers for the data collection workshop shared their transportation expertise to help the group develop an effective survey on safety in transportation. Constant Cap, an urban planner with extensive experience in road safety analysis, shared the five pillars of socially just transport, which are:

  • availability
  • accessibility and affordability
  • inclusivity, human rights and equity
  • sustainability.

The second speaker, Asumpta Lagat, represented the Directorate of Road Safety at the National Transport and Safety Authority and shared the steps they’re currently taking to improve public transit safety.

Past and future success stories

Safe public transit isn’t the only case study WiGISKe has used to empower people with skills and knowledge.

In 2020, WiGISKe conducted a data visualization challenge to explore datasets on teenage pregnancies, discover factors and propose solutions. Several students and recent graduates participated in the challenge. Three of the submissions were accepted to large publication platforms and several students were offered internships that would help propel their careers.

To learn more about WiGISKe, their upcoming events and workshops, as well as how to become a member, visit their website, follow their Twitter or LinkedIn pages, or send a note to info@wigis.co.ke.

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