CIS-A2K and Breakthrough Collaboration Report

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This is a report of Wikipedia events that are jointly conducted by Breakthrough and the CIS-A2K. Since late 2015, CIS-A2K has partnered with the human right organization Breakthrough to conduct multiple events which are mostly on gender gap bridging themes.

Why do we do this[edit]

Wikipedia is now the world’s biggest and most accessed free encyclopaedia. It has also become the first go-to website to gain first hand information about any topic. However, according to a study conducted by Wikipedia in 2011, only 9% of the editors at Wikipedia were women. India fares even worse. Only 3% of the editors in India are women.

The low representation of women among Wikipedia editors, often referred to as the "gender gap," has an impact on the coverage of women-oriented topics and perspectives, both in terms of the articles that are created and the content within articles. Our edit-a-thons are a small attempt to change this.


Who are these events aimed for?
The events are open for all although women are particularly encouraged.

Can men attend?
Yes, but male participants are encouraged to come along with an interested woman participant.

Are these events free?
Yes. These are all free events. Lunch is also provided to the participants. However, participants are required to bring their own laptop.

List of events[edit]

Date Theme Additonal partnerss Language # of participants
(# of women)
# of articles created/improved Social media and other mention
19 December 2015 Edit-a-thon on Women's Legal Cases Hidden-Pockets English 5(3) 5 Facebook event page
23 April 2016 Tawaifs of Northern India Edit-a-thon Darwesh English 20(unknown) 7 Facebook event page
28 May 2016 HerStory - Dalit Women’s Voices -- English 7(5) 6 Facebook event page
11 June 2016 Indian Women Writers Edit-a-thon -- English 2(2) 2 Facebook event page
8 October 2016 Indian Women Poets and Authors Edit-a-thon Feminism in India English 12(10) 11 Facebook event page
18 October 2016 Feminists in India -- English 12(8) 12 --
5 November 2016 Indian Women Judges and Lawyers Edit-a-thon Hidden Pockets English 4(3) 5 Facebook event page
18-20 November 2016 Wikisource Bible Bhashya Samputavali Volumes Proofreading Workshop at ALC Andhra Loyola College Telugu 31(15) 2000+ Wikisource pages Blog post
Telugu Wikipedia page
19 November 2016 Queer Feminists Edit-a-thon Feminism in India, Nazariya Punjabi, English 14(6) 12 Facebook event page
27 November 2016 Wikipedia Asian Month/Asian Women Month on-site editathon Wikipedia Asian Month English, Kannada, Tamil 14(9) 11(2 specifically about women) Facebook event page
1-2 December 2016 Women in Struggles TATA Institute of Social Sciences English 24(11) 15 Blog post
10 December 2016 Human Rights Activists in India Edit-a-thon Feminism in India English 5(5) 5 Facebook event page
TOTAL 150(at least 77) 91 Wikipedia pages

Challenges faced[edit]

  • Low participation: the participation of some events were very low.
  • Source verifiability: During the edit-a-thon of Dalit women, there was a blog run by Indian female Dalit writer Rajni Tilak, who created profiles of other Dalit women writers. Although the blog provides valuable information, it could not be considered as a reliable source according to the Wikipedia policies. The writer does have a published piece on the same topic but it is not digitised, and the physical book could not be found in the libraries. Other verifiable references are mostly academic papers in English that require an access fee or purchase.
  • Question of representative: Another problem faced during the Dalit women edit-a-thon is that all "reliable" academic papers are written by Savarna (non-Dalit) women. This reinforces the existing inequality and knowledge bias that marginalizes the Dalit's voices.
  • Lack of communication between partners: Although the partnerships were well-established and had resulted in many gender gap bridging events, there has been lack of communication between CIS and its partner organizations. Event documentation should be more seriously implemented as most events did not have a meta event page or an exhaustive list of usernames for cohort analysis. On the other hand, in the beginning of the collaboration, it was not clear to the partners that there can only be 6 new accounts created at one IP address per day. More guidance and reminder should be given by the CIS.
  • Concern of low interest in Wikisource events: A workshop for undergraduate students in proofreading is a bit tricky. Although students usually participate and learn from the tutors, this activity normally won't be very interesting to them and they may not do the formatting or proofreading with great care.
  • Not able to take care of everyone: We often have many new editors joining, but not all of them would be able to successfully create a full article and make it live. Most of the time there are a large number of new editors relying on a small number of experienced Wikipedians for one-on-one instructions.
  • Copyright violation problem: There a few cases that the articles created during some of the edit-a-thons were deleted due to copyright violation. It shows that the awareness and knowledge of copyright issue were not emphasized enough during the event and tutoring.
  • Time spent on typing tutorial: For events that have participants contribute to Indian language Wikipedias, a prior session of the script typing system is essential but often time-consuming.

Proposed solutions[edit]

  • Digitization of resources: CIS-A2K and Breakthrough will be working on the digitization of Rajni Tilak's work and search for better sources that can be used in marginalized women's topics.
  • Pre-event homework for organizers: Organizers should do some prior research on the theme and prepare a list of notable topics and verifiable sources for participants. If the organizers' level of expertise is not eligible for the preparation, partnership with more resource person (such as related department faculty) will be necessary for consultation.
  • Social media strategies: More social media strategies should be developed to boost the exposure of Wikipedia event information. More partnership establishment should also help spread the words to ensure participation.
  • Regular check-ups with partners: Although it is great to see partners becoming more independent event organizers, it is important to do regular check-ups with them to understand their practice.
  • Providing agency to participants: In order to overcome the problem low interest and/or low participation in events, we decided to give participants more agency in the event planning and conduct. For example, during the Wikisource proofreading workshop at ALC, we formed students into small groups and assured that they can choose the book of their interest as well as their work position in the workshop (ex. Choosing among running OCR, formatting text, proof reading, or verifying pages).
  • Emphasize Wikipedia policies and copyright rules: The guidelines and policies of Wikipedia should be clearly stated and explained before participants start editing. Regular check-ups should also be carried out during the event to ensure participants are on the right track.

Materials used[edit]