Women are the primary custodians of natural resources in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region and are at the forefront of the impacts of climate change. Yet, when it comes to decision-making and research on managing these resources, women’s voices are rarely heard. This exclusion is a problem with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in general and research using Earth observation (EO) and geospatial information technology (GIT) in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region in particular.
This means a wealth of knowledge and perspectives that would undoubtedly help to build gender equality while addressing climate change and developmental concerns is being squandered.
Investing in women
To encourage women to pursue EO/GIT careers or apply such science in their respective fields, ICIMOD’s SERVIR Hindu Kush Himalaya (SERVIR-HKH) Initiative organized four training events from 2018 to 2020—three for Nepali women and one for Pakistani women—on “Empowering women in GIT.” We competitively selected a diverse group of participants for each training and trained 171 individuals affiliated with 88 institutions. We followed the assessment, design, implementation, and monitoring approach to design the trainings specifically for young women.
We introduced the participants to geospatial and remote sensing concepts, the latest developments in EO/GIT and their different applications, and SERVIR-HKH products and services focused on environmental issues in the Hindu Kush Himalaya. Most participants were introduced to free and open-source remote-sensing/geographic information system alternatives for the first time.
A synthesis of all the pre- and post- training assessment surveys used to gauge the knowledge and skill levels of training participants reveal positive and significant developments. Post-training, a majority of the participants reported having gained “intermediate” and “advanced” knowledge of the subjects taught, and “high” and “moderate” confidence in technical skills discussed at the training (see bar charts below).
Lessons learned from technology training
Outlined below are the challenges and opportunities and lessons learned from piloting such trainings:
- Adopting open access and/or cost-effective data and technology for the development and delivery of such training is particularly useful for data- and resource-scarce regions, as it allows participants to continue building their skills post-training.
- Collaborating with relevant stakeholders adds value to the quality of training materials and helps customize, replicate, and scale this approach to other countries.
- The diverse academic backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets of participants helps us better understand local and regional needs and concerns.
- Time zones, as well as cultural differences, especially during the cross-country training sessions, need to be planned for and accommodated. This fosters cross-cultural exchange of knowledge and good practices and cements stronger professional networks.
- Despite internet speed/connectivity issues, the virtual training, as well as session recordings and training materials, enables participants from different areas to attend and catch up on daily lessons at their own leisure during the pandemic-induced lockdown.
Designing impactful trainings
Our training series aims to nurture a network of capable and empowered women professionals in the HKH region passionate about GIT and earth sciences.
We have outlined a way forward to improve on and scale up this training approach:
- Based on requests for follow-up training, design a multi-tiered course structure ranging from basic to advanced and specialized concepts and technologies related to SERVIR service areas: agriculture and food security, land cover and land use change and ecosystems, water resources and hydro-climatic disasters, weather and climate services, and air quality monitoring and management. We will also design collaborative mini-projects focusing on real-world problems, such as carbon dynamics, forest fires, hazard and risk analyses, drought assessments, natural resource management, and impacts on ecosystem services.
- Develop and adopt web-based learning management systems to facilitate self-paced learning for wider reach.
- Since attributing impact using pre- and post- training assessments for short training events is quite challenging, conduct tracer surveys and capacity assessments annually to track the impact of our trainings.
- Create a roster of SERVIR-HKH alumni to facilitate networking, mentorship, and authorship opportunities and further awareness of data and services towards attaining deeper impact for beneficiaries.
Rajesh leads ICIMOD’s group on land use, land cover change and ecosystem services and the capacity building programme under ICIMOD’s SERVIR-HKH Initiative. He has over twenty years work experience in various Asian countries including Japan, Thailand, and the HKH region. Prior to joining ICIMOD, Rajesh was a researcher at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. He also served as a visiting professor, teaching postgraduate courses at the University of Tsukuba, Japan. He holds a PhD in Geoenvironmental Science from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, and an MSc in Remote Sensing and GIS from the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand.
Poonam joined the thematic area Geospatial Solutions team in December, 2018 as a Capacity Building Training Analyst. She works with the SERVIR-HKH Initiative to enhance the capacity of regional governments and stakeholders on the use of Earth observation information, products and tools across the HKH region. She supports capacity building events by designing training materials and exercises, conducting training, and acting as a resource person in the training. Poonam holds a PhD from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur and an M. Tech degree in remote sensing and geo-information systems from Indian Institute of Remote Sensing in India.
Utsav currently work as a Knowledge Management and Communication Officer for the Mountain Environment Regional Information Systems Regional Programme (MENRIS) programme. He works with geospatial scientists to spread awareness on, and support adoption of different information systems and services, products and databases developed. He has held various positions within the KMC unit at ICIMOD and has helped drive ICIMOD’s monthly news digest and social media presence, promoted and facilitated the use of digital engagement tools for ICIMOD’s flagship conferences, moderated multiple communities of practice, and developed a centre wide contact database. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with honours in environmental science from Kathmandu University in Nepal.