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Citizens seek to 'close Internet gender gap'

Global WikiGap event aims to increase number of Wikipedia articles written on and by women

By Camille Dupire - Mar 10,2018 - Last updated at Mar 10,2018

AMMAN — Aghast by the fact that over 90 per cent of the content generated on the online platform Wikipedia is created by men, the Swedish embassy in Amman and the UN Jordan partnered to shine a brighter light on the achievements of prominent Jordanian and Arab women on the website.

Along with a number of local partners, some 70 volunteers gathered at the Khawarizmi International Academy Academy in Khalda to increase the number of women represented on Wikipedia, under the title "WikiGap edit-a-thon". 

"Some volunteers worked from a distance and the day before, all in all, the number of participants was a bit more than 100," said Sara Sara Lundgren from the Swedish embassy, noting that the total number of Wiki articles about women produced during the event amounted to 139, while more than 120 other written articles are now waiting to be uploaded. 

"WikiGap primarily concerns representation, which in turn concerns reflecting the world as it actually appears. We want to see Jordanian and Arab women profiles represented in all contexts, to the same extent as their male counterparts — including on the internet," said Erik Ullenhag, Swedish ambassador to Jordan.

"Sweden is the first country in the world with a feminist foreign policy. It emanates from a moral conviction based on justice and human rights, and also because gender equality is a basic condition for peace, security and sustainable development," he continued.

The world's largest online user generated encyclopedia, Wikipedia displays a great gender imbalance, like in society at large, a statement by the embassy said, citing the fact that there are four times more articles about men than there are about women. 

"Although the figures vary regionally, the general picture is clear: on the world’s largest online knowledge production platform, women’s success stories aren’t told to the same extent as those of men," Lundgren said.

While the Swedish embassy staff facilitated the event, they were not involved in writing or editing the articles themselves, which were all produced by local actors, she explained.

Reflecting on the event, participant Lama Hattab, programmes director at Generations for Peace said: "It is exciting to be involved in an initiative that highlights women’s achievements of all types in the Middle East and around the world. Reading these stories is and will continue to be inspiration for me personally, and I know their availability on such a widely used and recognised platform will encourage others from all corners of the globe as well."

She added: "It is our duty to give everything we have to what we do, aiming high with each task, challenge, and accomplishment, regardless of our gender or backgrounds. This is how we can inspire the next generation to live the best lives they can.”

In parallel with the Jordanian event, WikiGaps were organised in more than 50 countries, including Sweden, Vietnam, Egypt, Colombia and Tunisia.

All the material produced during the event is subject to the same quality control as other content, the WikiGap website said, noting that the aim is to create high quality and reliable informational pieces.

“Being involved in the WikiGap edit-a-thon has a two sided benefit for open source activists [a movement advocating for the free availability of programmes' source code to be modified by users]. Not  only does it try to close the gender gap online, but it also promotes the importance of the philosophy of open source amongst society," said the Jordan Open Source Association, whose members participated in the edit-a-thon. 

The local organisations and actors involved in the event included the Centre for Women’s Studies at the University of Jordan, the Women in Business Arabia network, The Khawarizmi University Technical College, Writers’ Cell, the Olympic Committee in Jordan, SheFighter, Creative Commons Jordan, Jordan Open Source Association and Wikimedia Levant, a statement by the embassy said.

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