Wikipedia is the world’s fifth most popular digital platform. In March, it launched Project Rewrite to rewrite the way women are represented on the platform.
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Manavpreet Kaur, project coordinator for Wikipedia and co-founder of Punjabi Wikimedians, said that the aim is to highlight the gender gap and bring more visibility to women—both in terms of the number of articles on women and the number of women editors contributing to the site.
Globally, fewer than 20% editors are women and only 18% of the biographies on English Wikipedia are about women.
“To share all the world’s knowledge, we need all the world’s people. We are focused on knowledge equity, and how we can break down the traditional barriers that have prevented people from participating in free knowledge…,” said Amanda Keton, general counsel for Wikimedia Foundation. “We are working with our global community of volunteers to expand representation of women that are being written about, and improve gender diversity in our projects.”
Kaur’s involvement started in 2014 when she realised that English content wasn’t accessible to most people, which led to her writing articles in Punjabi. A few years later, she learnt about the gender gap on Wikipedia and how it impacted the knowledge resource.
“I started to notice, there is little to no conversation about it in virtual communities because women were not taking as many leadership roles as men in their communities. In 2019, we started an initiative called Wiki for Women,” she said.
Volunteers have been taking up projects like writing articles every day for 100 days in a row to rapidly boost the amount of content that’s available online.
Rupika Sharma, a volunteer with Punjabi Wikipedia, has attempted to do this five times but could only finish the full 100 days only once. “Women’s voices are underrepresented on the internet and it is crucial to empower them,” said Sharma, who also works with the Wikimedia Grants Foundation.
Another volunteer is nearing 1,000 days of posting daily and is aiming to reach 1,500 days of contributing non-stop. Initiatives like these will help change the representation of women on the knowledge platform, they believe.
While specific figures on Project Rewrite are not available, over a two-day editathon in March, 59 women editors created 87 articles and edited 157 others in India.
The other important focus in India has been increasing awareness of the Indic languages that are available. While Wikipedia Hindi is widely known, the platform is available in 23 Indic languages and the growth in readers in India is coming through these versions. From 2011 to 2019, readership for the English pages grew 11% while for regional languages it grew by 29%.
“We have been designing programs to provide regionally relevant information. Our intention is to engage people to create content in regional languages,” Kaur said. “And we want to provide information about notable women in different languages as well, which hasn’t been available so far.”
Sharma, for instance, has created Punjabi language profiles for women as diverse as former Axis Bank CEO Shikha Sharma and British singer Adele.