Writing women into history: feminist Wikipedia Edit-a-thons in India

This is a guest post by Japleen Pasricha, founder and director of Feminism in India and an Access Now grantee.

We are all aware of the large reach and popularity of Wikipedia. However, what you might not know is that, according to a study conducted in 2011, only 9% of the editors at Wikipedia were women. And the percentage for India is even lower, just 3%.

Wikipedia recognizes the systemic gender bias that is created because of factors such as these and thus enables its diverse range of users to edit and create Wikipedia pages, with reliable and authentic sources.

Feminism in India, the organization I founded, collaborates with organizations like Breakthrough India, Punjabi Wikimedians, and the Swedish Embassy, among others, and holds monthly Wikipedia Edit-a-thons exploring various facets of gender on Wikipedia.

We choose a topic every month profiling women across fields, like women poets and authors, women in science, women in sports, queer feminists, women human rights defenders, and more. Accordingly, we create a list and look at how they’re represented on Wikipedia. Many of the names on the list will not have any Wiki pages, while the ones that do will often have very basic and limited information (“stub” pages).

We provide the participants with a basic rules document to read before the event. During the Edit-a-thon, the first hour is dedicated to introductions and briefing participants on how to create and edit articles on Wikipedia. After that, each participant chooses one or more person that’s missing or underrepresented in Wikipedia, and starts digging through the internet looking for interviews, news reports, and e-books for mentions of this person to write comprehensive Wikipedia articles on them. In the end, all of the newly created Wikipedia pages are collated.

By the end of the Edit-a-thon, the participants will have created at least one Wikipedia page each, often in different languages — English, Punjabi, Bengali, Malayalam — thereby increasing Wikipedia representation of Indian women multilingually!

We’re proud to see the new pages created or existing pages elaborated to recognize women and marginalized people on Wikipedia. These aren’t created in English only, but expanded to the vernacular of Indian languages. Women, especially from non-technical backgrounds, are learning a new skill both in terms of technology and research. And we help close the gender gap on Wikipedia, creating new women editors and new content on women.

Perhaps best of all, Wikipedia Edit-a-thons are fun, productive, and very easy to replicate. Check out our video below, review our documentation, and get involved! We can make a difference.