*Phnom Penh Post: Wiki activists help to write Cambodian women’s history*
by Bennett Murray
*Wikipedia’s Khmer language coverage is patchy at best, and almost
non-existent when it comes to profiling the country’s most important women.
This weekend, online activists are joining forces to flood the site with
Browsing the Khmer-language version of Wikipedia, knowledge seekers can
find entries for many prominent Cambodians. Prime Minister Hun Sen,
opposition leader Sam Rainsy and architect Vann Molyvann all feature. Even
the late National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy has an extensive biography.
But almost all the entries are for men.
While Mu Sochua, arguably Cambodia’s most influential female opposition
lawmaker, has a 713 word article on English Wikipedia, she doesn’t have an
entry at all on the Khmer site. Nor does Bun Rany, wife of Prime Minister
Hun Sen, nor Somaly Mam, the disgraced celebrity human rights activist. The
late 1960s and 1970s singer Ros Sereysothea is one of only a handful of
female profiles on the site.
“I think women’s voices are underrepresented – there are many issues that
are strongly concerned with women, and they lack the opportunity to raise
their voice,” said Oum Vannarith, public relations director at Zaman
University and prolific Wikipedia editor.
Vannarith said he had no specific data on the number of women on the site’s
Khmer edition, but it was much less than the 55 entries on English
Wikipedia’s Khmer women category page.
To mark International Women’s Day tomorrow, Vannarith is planning to host a
gathering of Wikipedia editors at the 5D Lab Cambodia community centre to
add new entries about Cambodian women to the Khmer language version of the
site. About 10 Cambodians in other parts of the world are also expected to
chip in at the same time.
“We will ask participants who they get inspiration from, who they admire,
and then we will identify key people ... and then we will teach them how to
research and add to Khmer Wikipedia,” he said.
According to Vannarith, Khmer Wikipedia had 4,655 articles as of Thursday.
This places it ahead Kashubian, a Slavic language spoken in parts of
Poland, and behind Sardinian in rankings.
While the approach of the 5,000-article-in-Khmer mark is a significant
milestone for Wiki since the local language pages launched in 2013,
Vannarith said that the lack of female editors was among his biggest
concerns as an editor.
However, he added that the gender imbalance was not unique to Khmer
“The general issue is the common issue of the Wikipedia movement, even in
well developed countries – not many participants are women,” said
According to Wikipedia’s own article on the site’s gender bias, between 84
and 91 per cent of Wikipedia editors are male which leads to “systematic
bias”. In an interview with the BBC last August, Wikipedia founder Jimmy
Wales admitted that the site had “completely failed” to fix the imbalance.
Web media consultant and blogger, Kounila Keo, who will address Sunday’s
workshop via Skype, said the efforts were part of an international campaign
to enlist female editors.
Kounila said via Skype from Singapore that she though female participation
in the Wikipedia community was as important as male participation, adding
that she was personally behind much of the editing of Cambodian women on
“If you’re a female Wikipedia editor, you tend to think more about entries
about women,” she said.
“There have been complaints that some male Wikipedia editors are not
sensible enough when they write articles about women.”
While a range of possible reasons have been suggested for the disparity,
ranging from a male-dominated, aggressive atmosphere on the site’s “talk”
pages to women’s under-representation in the tech world in general, Kounila
said it was up to Cambodian women themselves to get involved
The key to decreasing the male bias, said the blogger, who has attended
Wikimedia Foundation meetings across the world, is to keep up the outreach.
She said that a few encouraging signs have popped up in Cambodia.
“At all the events I’ve organised in the past [in Cambodia], there were
more female volunteers than male,” she said, adding that she wished more
would actually edit.
“I try to engage them – they seem to not be able to understand the
objective or the real purpose of Wikipedia articles,” said Kounila.
But she said it was hard to get people to write content for which they
would not directly get credit.
“Mostly young women female volunteers, in Cambodia especially, they might
have other priorities.”
*The “#WikiMeetup: Cambodia’s Prominent Women” will take place from 2pm on
Sunday at 5D Lab Cambodia, #296, Street 271 (Yothapol Khemarak Phoum
Boulevard). Check facebook.com/kmwp.fb <http://facebook.com/kmwp.fb> for