Women’s History Museum of Zambia and the Embassy of Sweden in Lusaka are cooperating with Wikipedia to highlight women’s profiles, experts and role models from Zambia. With this initiative, we want to increase the number of narratives on Wikipedia of Zambian women who have contributed to the country’s traditional and contemporary history, and help to make the internet more gender-equal.
Wikipedia is the world’s largest online and user-generated encyclopaedia. Its content influences and colours users’ knowledge about the world. But there is great imbalance on the website, like in society at large. Ninety per cent of the content is created by men, and there are four times more articles about men than there are about women. The figures vary regionally, but the picture is the same all over the world: the information about women is not only less extensive than that about men, it is also more negative and different in character.
“I believe if you don’t talk about your stories no one will tell them for you and it is our responsibility as Africans to do so”, said South African Wikipedian and trainer Bobby Shabangu.
To contribute to a more accurate picture, the Women’s History Museum, the Embassy of Sweden and Wikipedia have therefore taken the initiative for the #Wiki Women Edit-a-thon in Zambia. A Wikipedia representative from South Africa has been in the Lusaka for three days where almost 40 Zambian writers were trained in methods of writing for Wikipedia and situating African narratives so they can have prominence on the global platform.
The stories will be accessible to the public from today, 28th February, 2018. The writers have spent the last 24 hours writing stories about women that were selected by the public. The women were selected through a nomination call sent out by the Women’s History Museum of Zambia through electronic and social media. A shortlist of 150 women was earmarked for documentation.
Today 70 women will be published on Wikipedia with a continued process of documentation to carry on after this process.
“This initiative is a central part of the Women History Museum’s mandate to restore obscured narratives of women’s histories and influence how information about African women is curated, distributed and consumed,” said co-founder of the museum Samba Yonga.
The Embassy of Sweden in Lusaka has supported the project in line with Sweden’s feminist foreign policy, which is based on the ambition to strengthen women’s and girls’ rights, representation and resources. On 8 March, we will be joined by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Swedish embassies, which are organising parallel events in more than 40 countries together with local actors and partner, in the #WikiGap initiative to improve the representation of articles by and about women on Wikipedia.
“The goal of achieving gender equality is fundamentally a human rights issue. The #WikiWomen initiative primarily concerns representation, which in turns concerns reflecting the world as it actually appears. We want to see women profiles, to the same extent as men, represented in all contexts, including on the Internet. The #WikiWomen initiative in Zambia is timely indeed and links to the Swedish global campaign #WikiGap to close the Internet gender gap,” said Ambassador Henrik Cederin.
The list of women stories that have gone live today include updates and new entries. Updates have been added to historical figures such Alice Lenshina, Maureen Mwanawasa and Yolanta Mainza Chona. New entries include civil rights lawyer Lucy Sichone, Law Association of Zambia President Linda Kasonde and entrepreneur Monica Musonda.
The Zambian Wikipedians (Wikipedia writers) will continue to collaborate with the public in order to keep adding to the women’s profile list. Wikipedia is an open source platform and allows for people to add and edit information.
“The Women’s History Museum wants to create a ground swell of Zambian history on Wikipedia and this is the first stage of this operation. It was imperative to create a corp of Zambian men and women writers to drive this project. The idea is to have quarterly themed edit-a-thons where the Zambian Wikipedians will meet and continue to add to the database”, said co-founder of the Women’s History Museum, Mulenga Kapwepwe.
The Wiki Women Edit-a-thon was a collaborative effort between the Women’s History Museum of Zambia, and supported by the Embassy of Sweden in Lusaka and Wikipedia global. The training was hosted by Bongohive in Lusaka and facilitated by a combined team of Women’s History Museum and Bongohive staff.