The Hindustan Times ( Kolkata edition) : "Wiki wants Women"

The international media is abuzz with the gender gap in Wikipedia contributors around the world. Also, a survey by Wikimedia Foundation shows that English Wiki has only 13% women editors. To level this skewed ratio, the Indian Wikipedia community (communities in different languages across the country) is holding Women’s Wikipedia Workshops (WWW) across several cities, including Kolkata. Probably a first of its kind initiative, it is experimental in nature, with future course depending on response from the first few ones. 

“We are trying to understand the cause of this trend, psychological or technological. Though no statistics support it, one can say half the users on Facebook are women. There are women bloggers, too. So computer illiteracy is not an issue,” says Cherian Tinu Abraham, administrator in English Wikipedia.

“Our goal is to double the percentage of women by 2015, not just in India, but around the world,” says Bishakha Datta, member, Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees. 

However, there is no denying that social networking websites have more userfriendly applications than Wikipedia. To edit Wiki, one needs to know syntax, which many say is no rocket science either. “From my interactions with women, I have observed that they are more users than contributors,” adds Tinu.

In the Indian context, Bishakha explains, Wikipedia has been organising workshops at premier engineering colleges, as breaking the technological barrier there is the easiest. “It is coincidental that men are present in these institutes in larger numbers. But Wikipedia follows a decentralised medium, with various languages taking it ahead the way they want to.”

But for now, not more than two-three women attend the workshops, says Tinu. “Women think this is ‘geekdom’, and not for them. Add to this, women feel marginalised in using public resources, not taking up things which are ‘out there’ for all,” says Rimi B. Chatterjee, author, blogger and Wikipedia contributor. Adds Bishakha, “Visit the ‘discussion’ section of the topic ‘woman’ on English Wikipedia and you will know what I mean.” The section is holding a stiff debate on which picture is suitable to represent ‘woman’ — dressed or nude, anatomical or general, etc. Sanhita Gender Resource Centre collaborated with Wikimedia Foundation to “explore the use of Bangla Wiki to make information on women’s rights and issues accessible,” says Soma Sen Gupta, director, SGRC. The city held it’s first WWW on March 18, with 20 women participants.

Tinu Cherian