Typical housing in the Amazon.
Typical housing in the Amazon.

Geospatial Services and Gender Dynamics: Findings of a Study

By SERVIR Global

Geospatial services can benefit the people and the environment of the Amazon by supporting communities in monitoring their territories and addressing the various challenges they face, such as deforestation, illegal mining, climate change, and biodiversity loss. In order to do so, it is important to have an inclusive vision that considers the situation of local women and other actors in the region and improve local capacity in the use and exploitation of satellite data and geospatial information to facilitate, strengthen, and promote sustainable natural resource management throughout the Amazon.

Examining the gender dynamics in each country and local context is important to ensure that development processes and projects using geospatial services are inclusive and successfully reach and benefit women and men from different backgrounds. It is important to examine gender roles and differences in access to and control of resources and participation in decision-making processes as well as other aspects of social exclusion, for example those that may derive from ethnicity, age or class. Thus, SERVIR-Amazonia launched a study to synthesize the situation of women in the Amazon and the main challenges they face, and to generate ideas and recommendations on how geospatial projects and services can address issues of gender inequality and  benefit women specifically . 

The study, made possible thanks to the USAID Women’s Economic Empowerment funds of the White House of the United States, and coordinated by the SERVIR Global support team, analyzed the information obtained through three methodologies: i) revision of scientific and organizational literature; ii) interviews with key informants; iii) a survey of professionals working in organizations affiliated with SERVIR-Amazonia.


Gender table
Gender table.

Vast territory, diverse population, similar challenges for women

Findings emphasize that the Amazon is a vast region with diverse populations. Thus, it cannot be assumed that the roles, challenges, and opportunities are the same for all women and men in the Amazon, across different groups or even within the same group. Similarly, the activities and livelihoods of Amazon people are varied and complex, presenting multiple challenges, especially for women from traditional and indigenous communities. Some of these challenges are related to the division of labor and gender roles, geographic isolation, machismo, violence, limited access to electricity, internet, health services and education, language barriers, the growing loss of traditional knowledge, lack of participation and leadership on the part of women, insufficient representation of women in technical jobs and careers, and lack of land rights.

The opportunity of exploring the use of geospatial services to close the gender gap 

Knowledge on the relation of gender and geospatial services is scarce overall and even more limited for the Amazon. Most of the information found in literature and key informant sources is related to gender within the area of Land Cover & Land Use Change and Ecosystems, and far less on other SERVIR service areas . Likewise, the study found no relevant information on the participation and experiences of women professionals in GIS, or of instances of the use of geospatial services to explicitly close gender gaps (or benefit women) in the Amazon, although there are some examples from other regions that could serve as a guide. There are not many organizations that have a direct and explicit gender focus in the use of geospatial services, providing a great opportunity for SERVIR-Amazonia to lead in providing gender-sensitive geospatial services in the region.

Recommendations for the integration of a gender lens in geospatial services 

The study presents some suggestions and recommendations for institutions or programs in charge of providing geospatial information services to organizations and communities on how to improve the integration of a gender lens.

Inclusive communication strategies

These recommendations include, among others, the adoption of communication strategies that use a combination of methods and media; the provision of services and information in local languages; and promoting the participation of women’s organizations and networks in services.

Including gender in the different phases of the project cycle

 Another important result of the analysis was a series of recommendations for organizations and development projects that will directly use the geospatial services offered by institutions such as SERVIR-Amazonia.

  • The report points out that for the design phase, it is important to perform a diagnostic analysis of context, considering gender and marginalized groups as well as their access to, and control over, natural resources, common problems or challenges they face, and their needs and perceptions. Such information can help project leaders be aware of who will participate and who will be excluded, as well as consider ways in which the project could be made more inclusive. 
  • In the project implementation phase, strategies that can help promote women’s participation and benefit them directly can be considered, such as finding times when women can participate fully; explicitly inviting women (as well as men); having spaces and projects exclusively for women; and facilitating spaces that invite men and women to talk and reflect on gender equality issues. 
  • The monitoring, evaluation and learning phases are also key in terms of being able to reflect in a recurrent manner on how the project is doing in terms of social and gender inclusion in program activities, for example, examining whether women are actively participating and whether implementers are using established gender strategies. Based on this, the program should make adjustments, test other strategies, and continue with strategies that work to maximize benefits to women and to close gender gaps.
Including a gender lens in the mapping process

The report also provides a series of recommendations to better integrate gender and to maximize women’s participation and the extent to which they can directly benefit from geospatial services, both from the maps produced and the information that emerges from those maps. Some of the ideas proposed include having a diverse group of mappers; mapping and providing information on land tenure (including women’s land rights); mapping other gender gaps (e.g. income, participation in decision making, participation in organizations and their leadership, access to services and information, representation in technical jobs and careers, etc.); and mapping the locations of services and resources important to women.

Next steps

The results of the study are currently being discussed in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil where the main partners of SERVIR-Amazonia organize virtual round tables. Working groups to explore and improve the inclusion of the gender issue in some geospatial services developed by the Program partners will be created. The study has been presented at international events such as the AGU Fall Meeting 2020, one of the largest science conferences on planet Earth and space and the GIS (Geospatial Information Services) community. SERVIR-Amazonia will use the findings, and recommendations of this study to effectively guide its actions, aiming at the inclusion of gender equality approaches in the development of geospatial services promoted with partners. Particular emphasis will be given to the articulation of gender inclusion issues and indigenous populations, as well as the participation of professional women in GIS, via training and mentorships.

This blog was originally published by SERVIR-Amazonia.

Biodiversity, Gender and Social Inclusion, Land, Sustainable Land Management, Natural Resource Management, Resilience
Latin America & Caribbean


A joint development initiative of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), SERVIR works in partnership with leading regional organizations world-wide to help developing countries use information provided by Earth observing satellites and geospatial technologies for managing climate risks and land use. We empower decision-makers with tools, products, and services to act locally on climate-sensitive issues such as disasters, agriculture, water, and ecosystems and land use.

SERVIR is improving awareness, increasing access to information, and supporting analysis to help people in West Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa, Hindu Kush-Himalaya, the Lower Mekong, South America and Mesoamerica manage challenges in the areas of food security, water resources, land use change, and natural disasters. With activities in more than 45 countries and counting, SERVIR has already developed over 70 custom tools, collaborated with over 250 institutions, and trained more than 3000 individuals, improving the capacity to develop local solutions.

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