Editatonas: closing the gender gap in the Spanish Wikipedia

by Digital Rights LAC on September 23, 2015


By the end of 2014, after a couple of years as wikipedian, I found out about an awful fact: One out of ten wikipedians is a woman (yes, only one). I had not paid attention to this because many women are attending most of the Mexican Wikimedia events (the organization where I volunteer); however, I started imagining what effect this could have on the internet’s main reference website and that is when everything made sense.

By Carmen Alcázar, Wikimedia Mexico

Do you remember that article where they mentioned who that woman had been married to, but not what her profession was? Or those prominent women (researchers, dancers, artists, soccer players, scientists, etc.) you searched for and did not find? Did you ever want to find information about feminism, patriarchy, gender-based violence, femicides, etc., but found nothing? Well, this is mostly explained by the lack of women editing Wikipedia.

But why are women not editing Wikipedia? (That was my second question) There are many reasons- or assumptions, because we have not yet talked with all the women that are not editing- but the ones who do it have faced obstacles:

– Limited free time: Wikipedia is the largest collaborative project in the history of humanity, made by thousands of male and female volunteers that, as volunteering implies, do not get a single penny for editing. In this world that has very well defined and imposed gender roles it is hard for women to have any free time, between work or/and school and housekeeping, we barely find time to consume internet contents, let alone to produce them.

– Technology: Some women have less trust in technology; they have not been in touch with it in their everyday activities. There are not many possibilities to receive a technology education either.

– Trust: However difficult it may seem to believe, some women question the relevance of their own work, and contributions to Wikipedia (and in everyday life). In the history of mankind, if you are late to the decision-making process, it is logical to think that your proposal is not that important. Consequently, it is less frequent to get into discussions and defend your proposal. To men this the complete opposite: every discussion is seen as a battle to be won.

Machismo (misogyny): If there is misogyny in the world, there is misogyny in Wikipedia as well, that is why some women avoid to log in as users because they do not want to be discriminated.

After analyzing the reasons discussed in the WikiWomenCamp, many partners from organizations working on the promotion and defense of girls and women’s rights, such as Impetú A.C., Luchadoras, Mujeres Construyendo, Sandía Digital, SocialTIC, Wikimedia México A.C., reached the conclusion that despite the initiatives from TIC and gender gap since the nineties, something had to be done in order to reduce this gap in Wikipedia.

Our action plan has the following lines:

– Communication: Physical and online campaigns spreading word of the problem and solutions we come up with, data and statistics, along with a permanent survey to investigate the reason of the lack of women editing Wikipedia.

– Education: Workshops and training on different subjects: Yes, about Wikipedia, but also about inclusive and not sexist language, copy write, Creative Commons, digital security and human rights for women.

– Contents: The creation of exclusive events for women who edit Wikipedia used to produce articles about feminism, femicide and prominent Mexican and international women.

It has not been easy. We have faced different problems: from changing the name of the editing marathon (we call it Editatona in order to hack it and make it our own) to finding out that on Wikipedia are no categories defined for women –for example, if you are a female archeologist, you will be in the male archeologists category– and being criticized from excluding men from events. Despite all of this, we have decided that this is in our hands and that we are the ones who define how we want to work.

The inauguration was in January of 2015 with our first Editatona about feminisms. We had a calling that exceeded our expectations: 84 women joined the event but in the venue, the Instituto de Liderazgo Simone de Beauvoir A.C , there was place only for 40. We had babysitting service, coffee, cookies and food to share brought by the participants. We discovered that it is better to work in small teams, because otherwise, the discussion about stances on the article took place face to face, reducing the time left to edit.

In March we organized, along with the chapters assembled in the Wikimedia Iberocoop initiative, the international wikicontest “The woman you never met”: a translation (Spanish, Portuguese and Italian) and women-themed articles contest. The result of the contest was a total of 389 new articles about women and events that encourage women to edit, from 7 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Spain, México, Peru and Uruguay. In Mexico the second Editatona was made in the Vasconcelos Library and we created more than 20 new entries.

For the month of August Mukira suggested organizing the second part of the outstanding Mexican women edition event, in which we had a webinar to learn how to edit on Wikipedia, with more than 80 participants. This Editatona had 45 new entries about activists, human rights defenders, sportswoman and Mexican scientists. The venue was the Telmex Hub and we were supported by the UNESCO. To conclude this year´s work, we will have the fourth Editatona in November, in which we are going to write an article about feminicide in Mexico and about other related subjects such as the Gender Alert and human trafficking, amongst others.

Another important result of this project, and of other projects that deal with the same global issue, was that in Wikimanía—the annual meeting of wikipedians from around the world—more than ten activities related to reduce gender gap in Wikipedia and in their brother projects were made.

I love being part of this effort that is just starting in Mexico. I know we are working from nothing, that perhaps not everything is perfect and that there are many things we have to deconstruct and build. I recognize that if it had not been for these brave women, as the fifth pillar of Wikipedia tells us, this would not have been possible. I get excited about the fact that we are doing something here, a country where every day 7 women are murdered, a country where it is easy to make fun of women that are getting together and working without the “help” of men. The fact that we are hacking the patriarchy fills me with hope.

Image: (CC BY-SA) Wotancito / Wikimedia Commons