Edit-a-thon for women to bridge Wikimedia gender gap

Edit-a-thon for women to bridge Wikimedia gender gap

In one of the biggest movements across the globe to keep knowledge free and open, there is scant  representation of women. Wikipedians in the City say that nine out of ten Wiki editors across the globe are men. 

To encourage women to take active participation in Wikipedia editing, Wikimedia India, as part of a global initiative by Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), is hosting a monthlong International Women’s Day edit-a-thon. WMF that runs Wikipedia and other sister projects is keen on addressing the Wikimedia’s gender gap.

The event began on Saturday and the Wikimedia office in the City hosted the edit-a-thon on the first day. The initiative is being taken forward by active Wikipedia volunteers Chinmayi S K and Parul Thakur, along with Wikimedia Chapter Programme director Ravishankar Ayyakkannu.

Several volunteers joined the event online from different parts of the country.As part of the event, volunteers will create articles about women and feminism in various Indian languages, including Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Hindi and Maithili among others.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Wikipedia volunteers said lack of women’s representation impacted the Wiki content in several ways.

For instance, articles on several successful women were yet to be compiled. Some of the content also displayed a gender bias and could be enriched with a balanced view with more women taking up Wiki editing.

Shedding inhibitions

Contrary to popular inhibitions, editing Wikipedia is much easier than one believes. “The first barrier is to go online. Once that is done, you will understand that it is not as difficult as you think it is,” said Chinmayi.

Adding to this, Thakur explained: “I started editing Wikipedia articles a year ago. I am self-taught in Wiki editing. The first article I wrote was just a chunk of material without headings. I was amazed at how it was polished by fellow Wikipedians within an hour of my writing. I learnt from how they had edited my article.”

While the common fears would be about making grammatical mistakes or not being a subject expert, another active Wiki volunteer Nikita Belavate said there was no need to be an expert to enter Wiki articles.

“You do not need to be a subject expert because the articles are based on citations. Also, there is no need to stick to English Wikipedia alone. One can enter articles in one’s mother tongue too.”

Start editing

There are many women volunteers who have been housewives and have decided to utilise their free time for editing Wikipedia; there are college students and retired women who have taken up the task in subjects familiar to them.

Some of them have gone on to win awards and recognitions for their editing. All this adds to rich and diverse content expansion online.

Ravishankar Ayyakkannu observed that when a woman starts participating in Wiki editing, usually her family members are encouraged to do the same. There have been several instances where the husband and children have joined the woman volunteer.

“Being a woman Wiki volunteer works as a validation. Usually, we have seen that once women start editing Wikipedia, they stick to it.”

Volunteers suggest that anyone wanting to start editing can begin in a small way by editing the existing articles. 

Create articles

Once they gain confidence, they can open their Wiki account and start creating articles. Of course, there is always support from fellow volunteers, said the Wikipedians who hoped that the monthlong edit-a-thon would encourage more women volunteers.

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