At Digital Earth Africa we like to celebrate champions in the GIS field and recognise their work in furthering diversity and inclusion in the next generation of GIS professionals. We met Jamilatou Chaibou Begou, responsible for the themes “Water and water-related disasters” and “Gender and ethics” within the SERVIR West Africa program at the AGRHYMET Regional Centre to talk about her career, her passion for expanding opportunities in the GIS field and integrating diversity of thinking into all levels of decision making.
In developing countries, the water and GIS fields are often seen as male dominated, however the management of natural resources has a socio-economic impact on everyone.
“In rural households of Africa, the supply of water and sanitation still remains the prerogative of women,” Jamilatou explains. “It is therefore important to take into account the diversity of actors in water management (men, women, anyone who uses water) to better participate in the process of decision-making.”
Get to know Jamilatou
Jamilatou has been passionate about Earth sciences from a young age. She studied Geology at the School of Mines, Industry and Geology (EMIG) in Niamey, Niger. Through her academic study she analysed the principal causes of water shortage facing Niger and many other Sahelian countries and focused on how climate change is aggravating the stress placed on water resources. This passion led Jamilatou to continue her research with postgraduate studies in hydrology that lead to a PhD in climate change and water resources.
Jamilatou attributes her academic training and the integration of her skills into a professional role as the key to her successful career in GIS. It was early on in her time at AGRHYMET when Jamilatou was introduced to GIS tools and remote sensing. Since then, she has carried this experience into all her academic research and in the exercise of her professional roles. In her role with AGRHYMET she has participated in multiple projects, in particular the SERVIR West Africa program, which allowed her to enhance and to strengthen her capabilities to use GIS and Earth observation data to address challenges in food security, water resource management, climate change and land use. She has now been able to use GIS and satellite data technologies to evaluate available water resources and the management of natural hazards, specifically those linked to flooding.
Being a woman in science
“My advice to women is that sometimes it is necessary to look beyond the cliches and ready-made ideas on "feminine" or "masculine" professions to find your career path that can meet your personal aspirations.”
Jamilatou is passionate about building capacity in GIS and remote sensing across Africa. She is the focal point for Diversity and Inclusion for DE Africa on behalf of AGRHYMET, and as part of that function she is keen to ensure inclusion of diversity and gender across all the activities of DE Africa, in particular relating to the mapping of the types of the crop typing initiative. She also participates in the implementation of the gender strategy of the SERVIR West Africa program aimed at making technologies and professions in the GIS/remote sensing field more gender sensitive.
Jamilatou says: “you know, for every woman, particularly in developing countries, the biggest challenge is to manage to reconcile family life and professional life. At one point in my career, I really felt this difficulty as a mother. But personal perseverance and family support have always helped me achieve my professional goals.”
Jamilatou sees her most successful career moments as those that she has shared with her hydrology students at AGRHYMET: “sharing my knowledge in order to contribute to the capacity building of future decision-makers and technicians is a real passion and I always experience these moments as a real success.”
Using GIS in hydrology research
Jamilatou has been working on the development of socio-economic layers for West Africa to include in a flow forecasting model to predict the impact of flooding on population, crops, infrastructure and cultural sites. This research is supported by the American Research Center CIESIN (Center for International Earth Science Information Network).
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