The gender gap on Wikipedia became apparent after the 2011 editor survey, revealing a significant imbalance. Globally, only 8.5% of editors are women, with India reporting a mere 3%. This disparity extends to content, particularly in the lower number of biographical articles about women. Since 2013, CIS-A2K has actively worked to bridge this gap through various activities, partnerships, and research initiatives.
Strategies for addressing the gender gap have evolved over time. From 2013 to 2016, A2K collaborated with leaders in the Indian Wikimedia movement to initiate multilingual edit-a-thons. These efforts aimed to raise awareness about the importance of bridging the gender gap and improving content across Indian language projects. Additionally, A2K organized offline events in various cities with support from local organizations and communities.
Starting in 2016, A2K began investing in understanding the systemic barriers hindering women's participation in Wikimedia projects. This led to action research projects, resulting in the development of a South Asian context toolkit, the implementation of Codes of Conduct and Friendly Space Policies, and in-depth research on bridging the gender gap in Indian Language Wikimedia. Simultaneously, A2K forged collaborations with organizations focused on women's issues and knowledge creation. Partnerships with Breakthrough, aimed at raising awareness about sexual harassment and violence against women, complemented A2K's efforts in creating a gender gap bridging toolkit. A2K continued to establish long-term partnerships with organizations like Lek Ladki Abhiyan, Vigyan Ashram, and Jnana Prabodhini, which are contributing to bridging the gender gap as one of the major objectives.
A2K also prioritized raising awareness about gender gap bridging within the Indian Wikimedia community. Since 2017, sessions on the Wikipedia Gender Gap and safe spaces have been introduced. Efforts to enhance gender diversity in leadership and skill-building events led to an increase in female participation from 12% in TTT 2013 to 37% in TTT 2023. The Women Train the Trainer 2019 program, in collaboration with Indic Women Wikimedians and CIS A2K, further aimed to foster female leadership in Indic Wikimedia.
A2K began contributing to the gender gap bridging intiatives by supporting the nationwide "Lilavati's Daughters Edit-a-thon." This project, involving various Indian language Wikipedia initiatives, focused on creating articles about notable Indian women in science. A2K further promoted this effort among scholars of its leadership building initiative "Train the Trainer Program 2013." to onboard more indic langauge projects in contributing to this.
A2K continued collaborating with Indian wikimedians who focused their efforts towards enriching content by running edit-a-thons focused around bridging content gap. A2K also made efforts to initiate and build some of them. Some of those activities where A2K is either organizer or one of the co-organizers are as follows:
- Lilavati's Daughters Edit-a-thon (2013)
- Women's History Month, India-2014 (2014)
- Related events including offline events in Mangalore, Goa, Kothamangalam (Kerala), Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi
- Women's History Month-2016 (2016)
- Women's History Month Edit-a-thon on Indian women and crafts (2018)
- Indian Women Bureaucrats Edit-a-thon in collaboration with FII Wiki Project (2018)
- International Women's Month 2022 edit-a-thon (2022)
In addition to edit-a-thons focused on Wikipedia, there are few initiatives focused on improving gender diversity in participation and content diversity in other Wikimedia projects. For example Wiki technical orientation session for Women Tech group in Pune (2017) and Re-licensing and digitization of of 11 marathi books on women's issues (2021)
Research and Policy changes
During 2016-17 and 2019-21, A2K conducted research on bridging gender gap in South Asian context.
Research on understanding Wikipedia gender gap in India
An intern from the University of Toronto worked with the A2K team to conduct action research on the Wikipedia gender gap in India. The research endeavors to enhance comprehension of the gender imbalance issue while exploring potential local interventions.
Utilizing interviews and survey questionnaires, an action research was undertaken to gather data from female editors across diverse communities and skill levels. The research endeavors to offer deeper insights into the local gender gap bridging movement, providing a more nuanced understanding of women's experiences. This research resulted in South Asia focused toolkit to bridge gender gap while Preliminary research result was published in CIS Website. Also read article series about History of Gender Gap Awareness and Bridging initiatives in South Asia until 2016.
Gender gap bridging Toolkit
A Wikipedia Gender Gap Bridging Toolkit focused on the South Asian context published in August 2017 as part of the research on understanding the gender gap issue mentioned above. Prior to this, research and studies conducted to address the gender gap were primarily centered on Western contexts, leaving the dynamics of non-Western communities relatively unexplored. Therefore, A2K made efforts to create this toolkit, which serves as a repository of knowledge for gender gap bridging movements, particularly in South Asia.
Code of Conduct & Friendly Space Policies (CoCFSP)
In 2017, A2K created an elaborate Code of Conduct & Friendly Space Policies (CoCFSP) for the Train the Trainer (TTT) and MediaWiki Training (MWT) events. This included a Diversity statement, Values, Definitions of harassment, discrimination, and personal attack, Exceptions, Safe and positive space policy, as well as Reporting and mechanisms for resolution. The A2K team took proactive steps to promote, discuss, and enhance awareness about the policy during these events. In the context of the South-Asian Wikimedia movement in 2017, the efforts invested in creating this document, raising awareness, and ensuring enforcement held significant value.
The guidelines have been enforced strictly in events coordinated by CIS-A2K; events supported by or associated with the team are also mandated to follow the same. Given that Train the Trainer (TTT) is a major leadership development initiative within South Asian Wikimedia Communities, the promotion of these values and the heightened awareness surrounding them have had a significant impact. Subsequently, later training events organized by CIS-A2K also adopted this policy and its associated awareness initiatives until Universal Code of Conduct came into force.
Research on Bridging the Gender Gap on Indian Language Wikimedia
Between 2019-21, A2K conducted in-depth research on bridging the gender gap on Indian Language Wikimedia. This comprehensive effort built upon earlier studies (including the A2K research mentioned above), which identified challenges faced by women contributors and proposed strategies to address the gender gap. These studies highlight the ongoing need for continued research and documentation in the Indian context. This study investigated challenges in increasing women's participation in Indian language Wikimedia projects. It explores three main areas: Online participation and Offline community involvement by women. Strategies for sustaining women contributors, addressing retention issues and infrastructural challenges, and promoting awareness across all Wikimedia projects. Research continued from July 2019 to February 2021 and final report was published on Meta-wiki and CIS website:
- Research:Bridging the Gender gap: A report on Indian Language Wikimedia Communities
Breakthrough, a proactive human rights organization, tackles sexual harassment and violence against women in India. Their journey began in 2001 with the release of the music album "Mann Ke Manjeere," which grew into a campaign and a movement. Through partnerships and media platforms, Breakthrough strives to effect change at individual, household, and community levels, emphasizing that every person can play a role in ending violence against women and girls. The collaboration between CIS-A2K and Breakthrough aimed to empower women through Wikimedia projects. Breakthrough provided content while CIS-A2K offered technical support and outreach.
Over 10 Workshops, edit-a-thons, and campaigns were conducted to create and improve content related to gender equality between 19 December 2015 and 10 December 2016 resulting in participation of 150 women contributors. CIS-A2K and Breakthrough collaborated with several like-minded organizations including Hidden-Pockets, Darwesh, Feminism in India and Nazariya to organize these edit-a-thons. The partnership successfully engaged communities and raised awareness about women's issues. Collaboration with Breakthrough also coincided with A2K's research on Bridging Gender gap and activities also contributed significantly to the research. This report provides summery of activities along with challenges faced and proposed solutions.
Lek Ladki Abhiyan
Lek Ladki Abhiyan, part of Dalit Mahila Vikas Mandal in Maharashtra, addresses women's daily challenges, aiming to empower them on issues like child marriages, gender gap, and domestic violence. Since 2017, A2K is collaborating with Lek Ladki Abhiyan focusing on bridging content and participation gap.
A2K and Lek Ladki Abhiyan organized workshops, during Women's Day and Women's History Month. Activities included Wikipedia article writing, Wikisource book uploads, and media sharing on Wikimedia Commons, with a focus on women-centric topics like Women's Biographies, Laws for Women, Women at work, Women in Science, Women in Environment etc. In 2019, A2K initiated utilizing Wikimedia Commons for documenting disaster management. Lek Ladki Abhiyan published 14 books, covering topics like women's rights and equality, released under free license. In March 2021, A2K and Lek Ladki Abhiyan conducted online events, creating 7 'Women at Work' videos.
Vigyan Ashram is an organization that works to empower rural youth by helping them learn rural technology and improving their enterprenural skills. A2K collaborated with this organization to include Contributing to Wikipedia, Wikisource and Wikimedia Commons, Scanning, OCR and Digitizing books, etc., into their curriculum.
A2K co-designed the program with Viygan Ashram, provided skill-building and capacity development support to trainers, and supported the program with necessary resources and infrastructure. This training was majorly provided to rural women who would like to pick-up digital skills. This activity helped in bridging gender gap in participation by turning several female students and trainers into wikimedia contributors.
In addition to conducting the program in their institution, Female Wikimedians trained in this program supported in capacity building in our efforts to set up digitization centre in a 100 years old public library with rare books. Female Wikimedians from the organization turned into leaders in Indian Wikimedia movement an also participated in Train-the-trainer 2020 and 2023, WikiConference India 2023.
Jnana Prabodhini is an organization working on leadership development and motivating intelligence for social change for the last 5 decades. It is based in Pune (Maharashtra) and has projects all over India.
A2K collaborated with Jnana Prabodhini from 2016 to engage women from urban and rural areas in creating free knowledge. Starting from orientation session in 2016, series of events like women’s day edit-a-thons and content creation on gender and rural culture forged the partnership which continued over 5 years by 2023.
While pandamic impacted outreach activities as offline events and workshops stopped happening, Jnana Probodhini's acitivies could inspire 100+ women to contribute to creating content in Wikimedia projects in Marathi language. A2K conducted training sessions to introduce and train in Lingua Libre, Lexeme and Audio Books on Wikisource during pandamic to engage the women wikimedians on various projects.
Awareness and Capacity Building
A2K promoted ideas around necessity of Gender gap bridging, diversity and inclusion, need to create safe spaces through their training programs like Train the Trainer. With a beginning by a session on Bridging the Wikipedia Gender Gap & sensitising on Safe space policies in TTT 2017, A2K continued bringing aspects and concepts necessary to bridge gender gap into its leadership training program.
Following are the sessions related to bridging gender gap in various TTTs from 2017:
A2K has made significant efforts to enhance gender diversity in its training events. In the case of the Train-the-Trainer (TTT) program, the percentage of female participants increased from 12% in 2013 and 7% in 2015 to 25% in 2016 and 21% in 2017. In 2018, A2K aimed for at least 20% women participants and achieved an impressive 35% representation.
Encouraged by this success, A2K set a minimum of 25% women participants for TTT in 2019 and 2020, with both editions having 32% and 33% women participants, respectively. TTT 2023 further improved gender representation, with 37% women participants.
To foster female leadership in the Wikimedia community, Indic Women Wikimedians and CIS A2K organized the first edition of this leadership development program exclusively for promising women leaders Women Train the Trainer 2019, with the goal of nurturing women leaders for Wikipedia outreach.
- "Research:Wikipedia Editors Survey 2011 April - Meta". meta.wikimedia.org. Retrieved 2023-10-21.
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- "CIS-A2K/Events/Train the Trainer Program/2018 - Meta". meta.wikimedia.org. Retrieved 2023-10-20.