Fighting FGM with Maps

By Janet Chapman, Campaigns Manager Tanzania Development Trust, Founder Crowd2Map

At twelve years of age, Rhobi Samwelly almost bled to death after being subjected to FGM against her will. Since then she has dedicated her life to helping save girls from a similar fate. 

Typically during the “cutting season” girls receive a phone call in the middle of the night informing them that they must attend an operation in Kebanchabancha village, or other. Rhobi’s biggest challenge in offering support is in locating the girls and their whereabouts in remote areas without sign posted roads, and where villages are not mapped.

In 2015, the Tanzania Development Trust set up Crowd2Map Tanzania, a crowd-sourced mapping project aimed at putting rural Tanzania on the map. 

Since the projects inception, over 8,500 volunteers from all over the world have been enabled and empowered to add villages, schools, hospitals, roads, and over 2.9 million buildings, to Humanitarian OpenStreetMap.

A small micro grant of $5000 from Open Street Map, some additional small donations, and a gift of mobile hand phones from Nethope, has allowed the Tanzania Development Trust and Crowd2Map Tanzania to train over 600 mappers on the ground, in as many as twenty-six areas of remote Tanzania.  

A dashboard has been created to show which areas the project has mapped so far, and the aim is to eventually map every single rural area in Tanzania.

The mapping process and approach has been rolled out in two phases. Firstly, online volunteers, based all over the world, are tracing roads and buildings from satellite images such as in these tasks, and volunteers on the ground are invited to add names of villages, offices, churches, shops, and other points of interest. 

Secondly, volunteers in Tanzania are using a free smartphone app Maps.Me and printed fieldpapers and then sending an email to online volunteers to input into Online Scout Manager (OSM), which in turn is allowing for the production of printable maps detailing the remote villages and districts. 

The project leaders organised the first ever State of the Map Tanzania – a three-day mapping training event in Dar es Salaam in December 2017, and a three-day training event in Mwanza to mark ‘Open Data Day’ in March 2018. In addition they are delivering a keynote presentation and two workshops in Dar es Salaam, in August 2018. While at the end of July, the project and its’ successes will be further profiled at the ‘2018 State of the Map’ event in Milan.

The majority of communities in rural Tanzania are faced with challenges associated with poverty, food shortages, limited access to electricity and water, and gender inequality. The provision of access to local maps will help them to overcome some of these issues, and the Tanzania Development Trust is dedicated to helping them to reach this goal. 

The positive impacts of this project have been featured on Al Jazeera, and in the The Guardian, HOT, Mozilla and Missing Maps.

Any individual with an Internet connection can contribute to and help with the Tanzania mapping project. The trust are inviting fresh volunteers to sign up via their website.

It is also looking for contributors who have solid GIS skills, and those who can help to validate and mentor new mappers, as well as professionals who will volunteer to help with publicity and fundraising.

If you would like to contribute and improve rural mapping, please get in touch here.

The Tanzania Development Trust is an entirely volunteer run charity that has been supporting grassroots organisations in rural Tanzania for 42 years. Typical projects include village boreholes, solar panels for clinics and safe houses for girls refusing female genital mutilation.

State of the Map Milan 2018 – Crowd2map presentation on fighting FGM with maps


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