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News — 05 March, 2024

Catalyzing Women in Disaster Response: Insights from Women Mappers in the Caribbean

Discover how women mappers in the Caribbean are leading the charge in disaster response through open mapping. Gain valuable insights from their experiences and expertise as they inspire and catalyze their communities in small island developing states. Explore the transformative impact of women-led projects shaping a stronger, more resilient future in this insightful blog.

Louise Mathurin-Serieux, Senior Associate for Community Projects at the Open Mapping Hub in Latin America and the Caribbean, sparked off March with the Women Mappers in the Caribbean peer-to-peer session. This gathering provides a supportive platform for women mappers to come together and discuss disaster risk and resilience in small island developing states. Emphasizing the power of storytelling and the importance of fostering collaborative networks, Louise outlined the project’s focus on women-centered initiatives in small island developing states (SIDS) to address disaster response and prevention proactively through open mapping. By prioritizing skill-building, peer support networks, and expanding the open-source community, the aim is to catalyze women to drive socio-economic change.

Successful projects in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana, St. Lucia, and Haiti were highlighted by four distinguished speakers who have significantly contributed to advancing women mapping and disaster response in the Caribbean region:

  • Priya Harnarine, Vice President of the GIS Society of Trinidad and Tobago, advocates for geospatial technology’s value despite not being an early adopter herself. With degrees in International Global Studies, she drives positive social change through her expertise in managing complex projects and fostering collaboration.

  • Proann Francis, Project Officer for YEAC Saint Lucia, leads emergency interventions with extensive training in disaster response and open-source mapping. Through initiatives like Map4St.Lucia, Proann enhances disaster preparedness and redirects resources to assist vulnerable communities, envisioning skilled youth volunteer teams for future risk reduction efforts.

  • Lyse Ladouceur promotes ICT among women and youth in Haiti through education and empowerment events with GDG Port-au-Prince. Balancing roles as a developer, educator, and mother, she champions a brighter future with a focus on environmental sustainability.

  • Valrie Grant, entrepreneur and geospatial consultant, pioneers initiatives like EduTechAid to address digital inequality while mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs. With a global influence, she serves on various boards and committees, driving positive change in technology and entrepreneurship worldwide.

Each speaker brought forth unique expertise and experiences, offering a diverse range of perspectives and efforts within the mapping and disaster response domain in the Caribbean.


Priya’s participation in the webinar underscored her commitment to advancing GIS knowledge and disaster management, particularly among the younger demographic. Despite lacking technical expertise, her role as the vice president of the GIS Society of Trinidad and Tobago highlighted her dedication to continuous learning and advocacy. Priya emphasized her project’s focus on empowering women and girls through GIS training, emphasizing its significance in bolstering disaster preparedness. Through her insights, Priya exemplified the importance of women’s involvement in GIS to fortify disaster preparedness and response efforts, as evidenced by their collaboration with 30 students in Trinidad’s flood-prone region. Women in SIDS Photos - Trinidad and Tobago.jpg


Proann, representing the Youth Emergencies Action Committee (YEAC) in Saint Lucia, shared insights into their project during the webinar, emphasizing their emphasis on training young women in GIS mapping and disaster response skills. Despite encountering technical challenges, Proann highlighted the significant achievements of the 10 young women trained in GIS and field mapping as part of the 2023 pilot project for women-centered disaster risk resilience. Proann underscored the ongoing contributions of these young women to YEAC and their pivotal role in mapping initiatives on the island. Through Proann’s presentation, the impactful contributions of women in GIS and disaster response were evident, highlighting the importance of empowering young women in such initiatives. Women in SIDS Photos -  Saint Lucia.jpg


During her presentation, Lyse provided insights into the Women in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) project in Haiti, which collaborated with Ecole d’infotronique and the Caribbean School of Data (CSGD) to empower women through technology. She highlighted that 25 women students were enrolled in a two-month training program focused on GIS, open mapping, and disaster resilience, facilitated through the CSOD platform. Lyse emphasized that the participants would subsequently develop a proposal aimed at securing a microgrant to support community-building efforts through remote mapping initiatives and apply their newly acquired skills in practical settings, thereby contributing to community resilience and disaster risk reduction efforts. Through this comprehensive approach, the Women in SIDS project aims to empower women and foster sustainable community development in Haiti. Women in SIDS Photos -  Haiti.jpg


Valrie’s presentation highlighted the successful implementation of professional development programs in Guyana and Jamaica, focusing on integrating mapping skills across various sectors. Through partnerships and initiatives like “Woman Map for a Cause” and collaborations with organizations such as Geotech Vision and EduTechAid, Valrie and her team facilitated training sessions targeting women and girls. With over 15 participants in Jamaica and a cohort of 15 women in Guyana, significant engagement was achieved. The programs resulted in mapping approximately 818 OSM features and 542 buildings in Guyana, along with 243 features and 45 buildings in Jamaica, demonstrating tangible outcomes. Valrie emphasized the importance of ongoing mentorship and advocacy to empower participants as change ambassadors in their communities, aiming to strengthen GIS education’s impact in the Caribbean region. Women in SIDS Photos -  Guyana and Jamaica.jpg


In the second part of the session, Louise encouraged everyone to jump onto the Jamboard and share their thoughts. Here are some of the highlights: Jamboard - Women Mappers in the Caribbean.png

  • Women’s participation: Participants emphasized the importance of women’s involvement in mapping, highlighting its role in enhancing diversity, addressing gender disparities, and promoting inclusive community development. They also recognized the value of engaging women in mentorship and leadership roles, emphasizing the positive impact on community outcomes. Priya from Trinidad emphasized the significance of engaging with youth and showcasing the versatility of GIS knowledge across different career paths.

  • Engaging the Youth: Participants shared their experiences of engaging with young demographics and introducing them to GIS. They highlighted, for example, the excitement among Jamaican girls about using GIS knowledge in their communities and school projects.

  • Impact of Mapping: Participants discussed the potential impact and changes resulting from mapping initiatives. They emphasized the growing interest in GIS technology among the younger audience and the ability of mapping to solve specific problems and improve communities.

  • Challenges in Mapping: Participants mentioned the challenge of ensuring comprehensive coverage of the target areas without leaving any areas out. Strategies for overcoming this challenge were shared, such as scanning the designated area allocated by the tasking manager from top to bottom to ensure complete coverage.

  • Bridging Knowledge Gap: The discussion touched upon the perception of mapping as a niche field not well-known outside the realm of professional GIS. Strategies for bridging this gap included continued learning and support, as well as efforts to engage diverse demographics and spread knowledge beyond established professionals in the Caribbean.

Overall, over 100 women have been trained in open geospatial technologies for disaster resilience, with $45k in grants distributed to six local organizations across the Caribbean. The success of the community-centered approach has been evident, with plans to establish more local mapping groups and youth mapper chapters. However, building relationships and engaging with local communities require time and capacity-building efforts, emphasizing the importance of careful planning. The session concluded with a call for collaboration and support from HOT to continue to sustain knowledge-sharing and raise awareness about open mapping for women in the Caribbean.