Women iMMAPers at the core of humanitarian innovation and technology

Women working in technology are leading the way to gender equality in the industry. On International Women’s Day, we would like you to meet 13 of our most amazing iMMAP women who are rolling up their sleeves and using technology and innovation to bring exceptional expertise to humanitarian response around the world.

Technology is changing the world! It has made humanitarian work more effective, allowing stakeholders to connect and coordinate, and transforming response operations. At iMMAP, we are leading the way by using the latest innovations to deliver data services and create insightful information products. By harmonizing and visualizing data, we help humanitarian partners scale up their response efforts to achieve the best possible outcomes. By making evidence-based decisions, we can make a real difference in the world. 

The tech industry continues to suffer from a persistent gender gap. The share of women in computer science has decreased from 37% in 1984 to 22% in 2022. Women are also less likely to be promoted to management roles and earn only 85% of what men earn in technology jobs. 

Fortunately, some women working in technology are leading the way to gender equality in the industry. On International Women’s Day, we would like you to meet 13 of our most amazing iMMAP women who are rolling up their sleeves and using technology to bring exceptional expertise to humanitarian response around the world.  

Janet Oyebola Amao

My name is Janet and I am from Nigeria. I work for iMMAP as the Assessment and IM Officer under the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) project. I work with RRM partners to develop assessment tools, review methodologies, and automate assessment processes in emergency situations. 

Technology is impactful; it allows me to create a work-life balance by working smart. One of the ways I incorporate innovation into my work is by aggregating partner activities into a database that is easily accessible to stakeholders. I also apply innovation when designing information products such as assessment reports and Interactives Maps, or when using the R. Shiny App to create a platform where RRM partners can easily access information on interventions. 

Bridging the gender gap in the digital space requires teaching girls to embrace technology and innovations at an early age.  

What technical innovation would you create to make this world a better place? 

I would create a system that will help people manage home chores!

Tigist Ayele Gebrewold

My name is Tigist, I’m from Ethiopia and I have worked over 10 years in emergency, humanitarian, and development sectors. My key areas of expertise include socio-spatial data analysis, report writing, Monitoring and Evaluation, situation analysis and crisis overview, data visualization and satellite image analysis and data base management. I am proficient in various software such as ArcGIS, PowerBI, Tableau, advance Excel, SPSS, Erdas imagine, Kobo and DBMS to name a few. 

I am currently deployed through iMMAP at UNICEF Pakistan County Office, in the Education sector Working Group as an Information Management Specialist. I manage the information from more that 50 lead agencies and implementing partners. On a regular and ad hoc basis, I gather, analyze and share information which are important for education sector partners, government authorities and donors to make informed decisions. I am also responsible for needs assessments and analysis, as well as partners capacity building in IM related technical skills.   

I personally express myself as workaholic and a technology addicted lady. I enjoy learning new technology related skills and practice it to produce good quality products.  

Technology plays a great role in facilitating aid work. The Use of GIS technology can support to identify the place where affected communities live, informing short path and accessible route to deliver aids, as well as mapping partners presence and coverage, and enabling remote data collection from inaccessible locations.  

As I am working for a cluster, I deal with different types of organization and partners. Each has different expectations of their information management products. Some may prefer statistics while others would rather have interactive IM products. Few others may like video, audio or text. Thus, I try my best to integrate innovation on each product. For instance, ESRI introduced new tools called ARCGIS storyMaPs, which helps to create inspiring, immersive stories. I used this tool to produce my own for the Pakistan floods of 2005-2022. 

I believe collecting and analyzing gender sensitive data helps the decision maker to identify the gender disparity and respond on the gap. Once access to education is secured, life for women becomes safer. If girls are out of schools for extended periods, it exposes them for early marriage, child labor, migrate to other part of the country and gender-based violence. 

I am deeply concerned with the lesser representation of women in technical positions. When I was working in iMMAP Ethiopia country office, women where only 10% of the team. During that time, we advertised many IMO positions but only managed to hire 2 women. 

Vian Muhsin

My name is Vian and I am from Erbil, Iraq. I am an information management officer. I joined iMMAP as an intern, which prepared me for the IM position. My role is to support the Third-Party Monitoring (TPM) team by developing and improving data management systems through data verification, cleaning, and analysis.  

Technology allows access to information in real time, which leads to rapid decision making and collaboration. It also provides the opportunity to access data from a variety of sources, making the verification process easier.  

As a scientist, what technical innovation would you create to make this world a better place? 

I would create tools that help kids learn while having fun because they are the next generation. iMMAP develops digital systems that promote countries’ development.

Selin Ustaoğlu

My name is Selin and I am a Turkish data expert currently working with the SURGE section of iMMAP from home in Ankara, Turkey. I provide data collection, data analysis and data visualization services (although mostly analysis) to the Global Food Security Cluster.  

For many years I observed people in the humanitarian world using Excel to process data. However, I had seen in my previous jobs that it was possible to do it faster and in a more efficient way with programming languages such as Python. With one Python script you can collect your data through APIs, process it and visualize it, and all of that with just one click! It facilitates automatization, allowing everyone to focus on the actual analysis part and enable faster decision-making. 

“I feel like technology is the future of everything and the humanitarian sector is no exception.”

I often organize Python trainings with my colleagues. I also share my scripts that I produced on Titan with them so they can spread these good practices. I think trainings and sharing knowledge is how we will create a difference in this sector 

I’m currently working with the Global Food Security Cluster. We collect data and organize them into dashboards to help foster the best decisions possible. I created an automatization so the dashboards are updated as soon as a new data is collected. I am also currently developing a prioritization tool that will make decision-making easier and faster.  

The sector is always evolving, I feel that by the time everyone will have caught on programming language it will already be obsolete. But there are tools such as AI that allow for a fast evolution and adaptation to the latest tools. You can even create algorithms in programming using chatGPT! AI is the future of the humanitarian sector. Especially for data processing and decision-making. 

As a scientist, what technical innovation would you create to make this world a better place? 

I think artificial intelligence is the way forward. It can be a great supporting tool to decision-making, and it lower the chances of man-induced errors or of missing something.

Zainab Ali Habeeb

My name is Zainab and I am from Iraq. I have a bachelor's degree in computer science. I work for iMMAP as an information management officer. Before joining iMMAP, I worked in different positions including data analyst and web developer.  

Data, information management, and analytics are my passions, and I am excited to be working with iMMAP, an organization that focuses on technology development and systems implementation.  

Carly Fuglei

I am Carly, an American research and M&E specialist, currently deployed in Beirut through the SURGE, with UN Women. My work has a direct impact on gender issue as I’m working on its humanitarian answer. My current mission is an assessment of the situation of LGBTQIA+ people in Lebanon.  

There are many challenges in mainstreaming gender into technical and data collection jobs. I think that while we have made progress, there is still a lot of reluctance and a lack of awareness about the impact of gender in these fields. Self-education and open-mindedness are vital in understanding the impact of gender on different aspects of work.  

“In data collection, forgetting half of the population means that your work is not technically right.”

An interesting aspect of collecting data also is that cultural and gender differences can sometimes affect your result. For example, a local Iraqi woman might have more success getting information from another local woman than I, a white American woman. And this is especially true when talking to vulnerable women.  

I think that for western Caucasian people there are a lot of pre-made ideas of what gender equality is. It can be easy to forget that form some gender is still very much binary and does not have the same meaning as where you are from. This is also where technology can either be beneficial or horrible as a source of information.  There is a risk of appearing of even being a female white savior and obviously we do not want that.  

Last year, I worked extensively on women's economic empowerment, which is another important aspect of our work. I saw some inspiring programs under this portfolio, such as setting up a kitchen for disabled women and supporting women who had never had a job before. It's challenging work, and there are many structural problems to address, but it's also really rewarding to see the impact of our programs. There are small successes that give me hope for the work we're doing. 

Zainab Sami Ali Zangana

My name is Zainab Sami Ali Zangana, and I am from Iraq. 

I started my career with iMMAP as a Data Entry Clean-up, and now, I'm an Information Management (IM) Assistant. In my position, I collect, harmonize, and disseminate data to relevant stakeholders.  

I took up the role of IM assitant because it challenges me to employ technology to achieve positive change. 

Technology is adding many things to the world, including the ease of access to information and improved productivity. 

As a scientist, what technical innovation would you create to make this world a better place? 

I would create applications that improve our daily lives and mitigates the negative effects of technology.

Mekdes Alemayehu

My name is Mekdes, and I was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I have a degree in computer science and a master's degree in public health, specializing in medical informatics from the University of South Africa. For the past five years, I have been the Health Information Management Advisor for a USAID project, managing six data managers and providing support for government health facilities, regional health bureaus, and the Ministry of Health.  

I provide training for government staff and implementing partners working for gender-based violence (GBV). The focus is mainly on improving the quality of data through continuous training and capacity building. I recently started providing training for the general protection cluster.  

Every year, we update the templates for our activities’ indicators. This is not only for general protection but also for different subsectors like child protection, mine action, housing, landing, and gender-based violence. I do the data validation rules in the templates, which incorporate the list of regions, zones, and project codes. Most of the information is pre-embedded in the template to prevent errors or wrongly adding data or indicators. During virtual training, I demonstrate to international implementing partners how to enter the data using dropdown or pre-embedded data. If they wrongly enter data, it will be difficult to have a map or work on the map process. After demonstrating, I ask for volunteers to enter the data themselves and check if they understand the process. 

“The use of technology and innovation can certainly contribute to bridging the gender gap.”

As we live in a fast-paced, dynamic world, everything must align with technology. Not just in my field, but across all sectors, technology and innovation are vital for progress. For instance, with geospatial technologies, we can use mobile technology and social media platforms to collect and disseminate information to women in need during humanitarian crises.  Victims of gender-based violence can access information on support systems and referral pathways through their phones, giving them quick access to psychological, clinical, and legal support. This is a big step up from the days when victims didn't have easy access to information or were too afraid to ask. In addition to information, mobile technology also allows for mobile banking transfers to provide material support, which is especially helpful during crises. So, technology and innovation have a significant role in bridging the gender gap, and we must continue to harness its potential. 

As a scientist, what technical innovation would you create to make this world a better place? 

I would create a technology that could filter the right information from the wrong information on social media platforms. We live in a time where technology has its advantages and disadvantages, and wrong information can easily be disseminated, causing crises. Recently, there have been conflicts due to religious differences, and social media has been a major platform for disseminating hate information. Having technology that could identify false information on social media platforms would be helpful in creating peace.

Carlota Tarazona

I’m Carlota, I’m from Spain and I’m a Telecommunications Engineer and a feminist. My career path has been focused on data and information management for development and humanitarian action. I am a feminist and I enjoy working on gender issues in the humanitarian field. Currently I’m deployed through the Standby Partnership Programme as Gender Based Violence (GBV) Information Management Officer (IMO) with UN Women, working for the GBV sub-cluster in Colombia.  

At iMMAP I’ve learned how many wonderful women are in the humanitarian field and in the IM sector. I met women who I learned from and who empowered me with to improve the humanitarian response in an effective and equitable way.  

During my career, I’ve learned how hard it can be to be a woman in a technology and data world. The biggest challenge has been with myself when I made the decision to pursue a career in technology and innovation. This is due to a lack of self-confidence, as many women believe we can't do it because of a lack of role models.  

“On March 8th, we must remember the importance of achieving effective gender equality in this and all sectors.”

Information management activities are key to closing gender gaps and contributing to equality. Disaggregation by gender and age is necessary in all sectors and actions, but it is not sufficient to understand the contexts of girls and women affected by humanitarian crises. It is necessary to go further and analyze the particular needs of women and girls and the specific risks to which they are exposed. As IMOs, we have to ensure that gender is adequately integrated into humanitarian planning and programming and that all people affected by crisis are reached with a needs and capacities-adapted response. 

Saratu Ambi

My name is Saratu. I am an Information Management Officer (IMO) at iMMAP in Nigeria. I specialize in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and data sciences. I work on the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) project in collaboration with UNICEF to build the IM capacities of RRM partners and harmonize shared data for more informed disaster and emergency responses. 

Technology is the backbone of my work. I rely on technology to build systems and programs that enable strategic humanitarian responses. I can automate otherwise repetitive processes. Technology allows me to easily access knowledge and collaborate on projects with colleagues in other countries. 

The gender gap in this area can be reduced by increasing women's participation in related capacity building programs, such as the iMMAP IM training and internship in Nigeria, of which I am a beneficiary. These programs provide women with the skills to compete effectively with their male counterparts.  

As a scientist, what technical innovation would you create to make this world a better place? 

I would build a platform that links domestic abuse survivors (women) to basic services seamlessly.

Katerine Zapata

My name is Katerine and I’m working as an Information Management Officer with iMMAP Colombia on a water and sanitation project (WASH) dedicated to refugees and asylum seekers in the region. 

I believe Technology can help us manage information better and improve the lives of vulnerable people. This is why technology and innovation can play such an important role in the humanitarian sector. 

Essraa Ghassan

My name is Essraa, from Baghdad. I work as a Project Coordinator with iMMAP Iraq. I joined iMMAP in 2014 as an intern. I then grew my skills to occupy various IM roles, and I am now a project coordinator with the organization. 

My role as a Project Coordinator is to identify the needs of mine action stakeholders in Iraq to help the iMMAP team develop tailored programs that best meet the needs of the national mine action authority. 

The main change that technology brings is that it makes the world smaller and easier to connect with each other. It helps make our lives more productive. 

Iryna Tkachyk

My name is Iryna Tkachyk and I am from Ukraine. I have a degree in geological exploration and mapping. I am an Information Management Officer at iMMAP, supporting humanitarian Clusters and partners with IM services, including capacity building. 

In my country, many women now work in the humanitarian field. Our project aims to provide access to knowledge in humanitarian IM, which can help women to become more confident and take on leadership positions. 

My work involves the development of IM tools and reports, and analyzing data to facilitate better identification of humanitarian needs and proactive response decision-making. 

Technology has a positive influence on our lives and work. We can collect and process data faster using various tools and automation technique. With this, interventions can be faster and more accurate, which saves lives. Within the scope of the Cluster support project, we deployed a training system that allows participants to access training materials at their convenience. This helps mitigate unforeseen disruptions of electricity supply and network connection during the online training sessions, as well as facilitate long-term knowledge retention. 

As a scientist, what technical innovation would you create to make this world a better place? 

With my background in GIS and my country suffering from war, I would create an interactive application that highlights areas contaminated by mine and explosive devices. This application will warn people about dangerous items closer than 100m and send the data to the relevant authority to determine demining priorities.

What would you say to a woman who is interested in a technical position within the humanitarian field?

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