IWD 2024: Women Rewriting Wikipedia Narrative

The Wikimedia Foundation recently launched its “Wikipedia Needs More Women” campaign, spotlighting global endeavors, including initiatives in Africa, aimed at enhancing gender representation on Wikimedia platforms and encouraging broader participation. Wikipedia, renowned for its vast repository of knowledge, comprising 62 million articles across 300 languages and garnering 15 billion monthly views, holds significant sway in shaping our understanding of the world.

With over 265,000 volunteer contributors adhering to Wikipedia’s rigorous editorial standards, content is meticulously curated, ensuring reliability and neutrality. However, pervasive gender disparities persist, reflecting broader societal trends wherein women are often marginalized from historical narratives and conventional knowledge sources. This gender gap permeates the internet, exacerbating knowledge asymmetries, including those evident on Wikipedia, where women remain conspicuously underrepresented.

The “Wikipedia Needs More Women” campaign, launched on International Women’s Day, rallies individuals worldwide to contribute towards rectifying these imbalances.

Anusha Alikhan, Chief Communications Officer at the Wikimedia Foundation.

“The campaign’s inclusive ethos, urging diverse stakeholders, including journalists, academics, and thought leaders, to amplify coverage of women, thereby enriches the secondary literature essential for Wikipedia’s content creation and enhancement”, emphasised Anusha Alikhan, Chief Communications Officer at the Wikimedia Foundation.

In Africa, concerted efforts spearheaded by the Wikimedia Foundation and volunteer communities have made significant strides in addressing gender gaps on Wikipedia. Particularly noteworthy is Kenya’s trajectory, marked by a commendable 26% surge in biographies and related content about Kenyan women on Wikimedia platforms over the past two years. This progress underscores the efficacy of initiatives championed by the women-led Wikimedia Community User Group Kenya, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering knowledge accessibility and volunteerism.

The User Group’s multifaceted approach, encompassing conventions, workshops, and edit-a-thons, has been instrumental in augmenting the representation of Kenyan women on Wikipedia and the broader internet landscape. Notable examples include Caroline Mwaura, a librarian actively involved in enhancing Wikipedia articles through the “One Librarian, One Reference” campaign, and Faith Mwanyolo, whose leadership in organizing WikiGap in Nairobi exemplifies grassroots efforts to bridge gender divides.

Masana Mulaudzi, Senior Manager of Campaign Organizing at the Wikimedia Foundation, lauds the progress witnessed across Africa in advancing gender equity within Wikimedia projects, emphasizing the imperative of inclusive representation to realize Wikipedia’s vision as a comprehensive repository reflecting the diversity of humanity. Through concerted action and collective engagement, stakeholders continue to forge a path towards a more inclusive and equitable knowledge ecosystem.

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