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International Women's Day 2022: #BreakTheBiasedMap


As women continue to face challenges in society, it is important to discuss how we can change perceptions and challenge the conversation forward to create positive and social change. This year, we celebrate International Women’s Day with #BreaktheBias. We focused on a particular field where women still experience skewed representation and participation – mapping and OpenStreetMap (OSM).


I spoke to my dearest friend, Arnalie Vicario, and asked her why and how we should #BreakTheBiasedMap in this modern society. Arnalie is one of the women champions in the OSM community. Let us hear her thoughts through this Q&A.

Can you tell us about yourself and how you became part of the women's communities?

Hello, my name is Arnalie, and I’m from one of the 7000+ islands of the Philippines. I’m a mother, and I advocate for women empowerment by promoting #normalizebreastfeeding, #sustainableliving using menstrual cups, as well as women participation and visibility on the map with my friends from GeoladiesPH and getting inspiration from other collective such as Geochicas, Women in Geospatial, etc.

I was introduced to open data and OpenStreetMap when I joined a project in 2016. My friend and long-time OSM volunteer, you, Ms. Feye, invited me to an outdoor mapping party with OSM Philippines community members. I remember we were the only two ladies participating (the other 5 were men).

I remember we had a “Geoladies” group in Telegram around 2017-2019, but the Telegram group is no longer active. The participants were ladies and allies from all over the world. It served as a space for us to openly discuss mapping women-centric features in OSM, as well as share and support initiatives advocating for inclusion on the map.

It was in 2018 when I learned about the 2014 Change the Ratio event organized by Mr. Maning Sambale, father of OSM Philippines (chars!), where he convened the first GeoladiesPH meetup. I took inspiration from that event to co-organize MAPAbabae: OSM Workshop and Mapathon with Women and for Women. A year after in 2019, together with [core members] you, Leigh Lunas, Jen Ayco, Cham Mamador, and Andi Tabinas, we formed GeoladiesPH and held activities with women and for women! :)

Drone Workshop organized by GeoLadiesPH last August 2019

What particular advocacies in your group are you pushing?

Each of our core members has different advocacies but comes together to push for community diversity, collaborative participation, and affirmative spaces, especially for women and under-represented communities in OpenStreetMap and the geospatial science community. (Source: GeoLadiesPH Facebook Page)

Why is #BreakTheBiasedMap important this year?

Oxford Dictionary defines bias as a prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. A judgment resulting from a bias is not always negative; it can also be positive. Same with the impact of the biased judgment, it can be positive or negative.

Historically and up until now, women face a lot of challenges - systematic challenges - which are the impact of these biases. (Read: Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez)

#BreakTheBias is International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022’s theme. I love that this IWD2022 promotes the individual - that YOU can make a change (Individually, we're all responsible for our thoughts and actions - all day, every day.), and also empowers the collective (Together, we can break the bias in our communities, workplace, schools, etc.)

We can break the bias in different spaces - including the map - on IWD / Women's Month and beyond. This is how we came up with the #BreakTheBiasedMap theme - to engage women mapmakers to contribute and put more women's contributions as well as increase women’s spaces on the map (Mapping campaign link).

You are part of various women’s groups and larger organizations that advocate for diversity and inclusion; however, women, including yourself, continue to face challenges related to inclusion and equality on mapping – how can we ensure that we’re amplifying the voices and concerns of these women?

It is important to have open spaces where everyone’s voices are amplified and concerns are heard. It is also equally important to have a welcoming and non-hostile space where everyone is comfortable and encouraged to speak and participate in whichever way they want. And that dominating voices don’t suck all the air out. It’s not about taking away their voices; it’s about lifting others up.

The humanitarian open mapping CommunityWG organized a webinar and published a post for last year’s IWD theme #ChooseToChallenge that includes how to take action against sexism and misogyny, which relates to biases against women. Individually, we must examine our behaviors and be mindful of our own biases. Try to see things from a different perspective - from a woman’s perspective - as if one size won’t fit all (which is true, tbh). If you are not a woman, you can be our ally.

We have lots of women advocates and allies, but personally, I think what we are lacking are women in leadership positions, more specifically, women of color. People can't see what they don't see or experience. They only see their privilege. We need leaders from diverse backgrounds, and who are women to take into account our realities, especially in decision-making.

What do you wish to see for us this time next year?

I wish to see more women in leadership positions and more women contributing on the map and open discussions. Women have SPATIAL perspectives, and we belong in spaces WHERE change and great things happen.

Want to know more about Arnalie and her work? Follow her on Twitter @arnalielsewhere and on OpenStreetMap @arnalielsewhere!