Closing gender gaps in Wikipedia is key to building women’s empowerment

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The excitement is palpable as the Republic of South Africa once again holds celebrations to mark Women’s Month. Every August, Rainbow Nation celebrates Women’s Month in commemoration of the more than 20,000 women who marched to Union Buildings on August 9, 1956 to protest the extension of pass laws. Women’s.

Women’s Month is a tribute not only to the thousands of women who marched on this day in 1956, but also to the pioneering women of this country, who continue to lead efforts to fight gender inequality, wage discrimination, rape and gender – based violence.

This year’s event will be celebrated under the theme: “Women’s Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment: Building Back Better for Women’s Resilience”. The concept of Generation Equality connects South Africa to global efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030. Notably, this year’s event coincides with Wikimania, the annual conference that brings together volunteer editors from the Wikipedia projects and Wikimedia to celebrate free knowledge. Taking place August 11-14, the virtual event is expected to bring together thousands of attendees to discuss issues at the heart of the free knowledge movement. One of these key issues is the representation of women both in Wikipedia content and in the wider community of volunteer editors.

As Women’s Month and Wikimania begin this week, there’s a lot to celebrate, but there’s also a lot of work to be done to address gender inequality. The Commission for Gender Equality in South Africa points out that one of the greatest challenges facing women in the country is the feminization of poverty which has excluded women from participation in many spheres of society. .

On Wikipedia, women have historically been underrepresented in knowledge on the site, as well as in its community of volunteer writers. Less than 20% of Wikipedia editors identify as women, and 18.3% of the content of all Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia biographies, is about women.

The issues that contribute to this gender gap are likely multiple, with reasons cited being that women may tend to have less free time than men, an editing culture on Wikipedia that is not always conducive to newcomers, including women. Additionally, Wikipedia relies on third-party sources to verify information in articles. Women have often been excluded from historical accounts and traditional sources of knowledge, making it difficult to write about women on Wikipedia when there are few sources about them.

But fortunately, progress is being made. The English Wikipedia article on the Women’s March of August 9, 1956 mentions 14 women known to be key participants in the protest. Each of them now has their own Wikipedia article detailing their work and life, including Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, known to be the last living leader of the Women’s March. The current article on Sophia Williams-De Bruyn has been enhanced by the volunteers of Women in Red, a group of volunteers working to challenge systemic biases and to create and improve women’s biographies on Wikipedia. Many other initiatives and groups now exist within the wider Wikimedia movement to close these gender gaps, including Wiki Loves Women, an initiative designed to address gender inequality on the African continent on Wikimedia Projects.

The theme of the gender gap will be featured at this year’s Wikimania, including a session on best practices on how more women can be written into Wikipedia history, and a session that highlights the challenges Arab women face when contributing to Wikipedia, while celebrating their success to date. Everyone is welcome to join or participate in these sessions which are free.

This year, the theme for Women’s Day in South Africa evokes the need for a reformed society, a society where women and men enjoy equal opportunities to participate and engage in daily socio-economic activities. , including in their participation and contribution on platforms such as Wikipedia.

As South Africa celebrates Women’s Month and volunteers gather at this year’s Wikimania conference, there is a need to attract more female readers and contributors by closing the internet skills gap between men and women and bringing out more diverse voices from around the world. For those interested in getting involved in solving this challenge on Wikipedia, Wikimania is a good place to meet volunteers and learn how to get started on the site.

By Wikimedia South Africa Chapter Board Member

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