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Digital Inclusion

Wikimedia Foundation launches 'Wikipedia Needs More Women' campaign

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The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit behind free online encyclopedia Wikipedia, has launched the "Wikipedia Needs More Women" campaign to enhance gender equity on Wikipedia and is calling for more female voices to contribute to sources of knowledge.

As part of International Women's Day 2024, the campaign celebrates efforts around the world, including Africa, to improve gender equity on Wikimedia projects and invites more women to get involved.

Wikipedia is one of the world's largest knowledge resources, with 62 million articles in over 300 languages and 15 billion views per month, but women remain underrepresented on the platform.

While there's been some progress in closing gender equity gaps, today only 19% of the biographies on Wikipedia are about women.

"That means out of the almost two million biographies, less than 400,000 of them are about women. Similarly, while nearly half (49%) of Wikipedia's readers are women, only 13% of active editors on Wikimedia projects identify as women," Anusha Alikhan, the Wikimedia Foundation's chief communications officer, said in a blog post.

In addition, only 21% of the content on Wikimedia Commons is related to women and only 20% of the content on Wikiquote is attributed to women.

Wikimedia gender gap statistics
(Source: Humaniki, February 2024; Community Insights Survey, 2023)
(Source: Humaniki, February 2024; Community Insights Survey, 2023)

"Wikipedia depends on the availability of existing published sources to verify the facts in its articles. But in many places around the world, women have been left out of historical narratives and traditional sources of knowledge," Alikhan added.

She said this gender gap is an all-pervasive issue across the Internet and women remain significantly underrepresented – an issue that many publications and organizations, including the Wikimedia Foundation, are trying to address.

Changing the narrative

"On International Women's Day, the 'Wikipedia Needs More Women' campaign is a call to action for everyone to help close these knowledge gaps on Wikipedia. There are a number of ways that people can get involved to change the stats and make a difference, from editing a Wikipedia page, to attending an online event," said Alikhan.

"We're also calling on everyone – journalists, academics, thought leaders, and individuals and organizations across the information landscape – to increase their coverage of women. This will help build out the ecosystem of secondary literature that Wikipedia volunteers rely on to create and improve content about women," she added.

Content on Wikipedia is written on notable subjects by over 265,000 volunteer contributors from around the world who are required to adhere to Wikipedia's editorial standards, ensuring all information is backed by reliable sources and presented from a neutral point of view.

Africa's progress in closing gender gaps

Wikimedia contributors in Africa have been making consistent efforts to help bridge the gender gap on Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects over the past few years.

From 2022 to 2024, there was a 26% increase in the number of biographies and other content about women from the sub-Saharan Africa region on Wikimedia projects.

In Nigeria, there was a 23% increase in women-related content on Wikimedia projects over the last two years and volunteer Dr. Nkem Osuigwe has trained 300 African librarians on contributing to Wikipedia.

Ugandan librarian Alice Kibombo has created 70 Wikipedia articles, many of them about women politicians in Uganda.

Kenya also witnessed a growth of 26% in biographies and other content about women, increasing from 762 entries in 2022 to 958 in 2024.

The Wiki Green Conference 2023 in Ghana introduced young women to contributing to Wikimedia projects, including on topics that align with their other interests such as climate issues, gender equality and social justice.

"It is inspiring to see the progress made across the African continent to improve gender equity on Wikipedia and beyond," said Masana Mulaudzi, senior manager of campaign organizing at the Wikimedia Foundation.

"As one of the world's top resources for information, it's critical for Wikipedia to represent the full, rich diversity of all humanity. When more people from Africa contribute to Wikipedia, we move closer to achieving this vision," Mulaudzi added.

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The Wikimedia Foundation is calling for a collaborative effort from everyone to increase gender diversity on Wikimedia projects.

African women can join contribute by adding a citation, expanding on an article about a notable woman, or joining a local community of Wikipedia volunteers.

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*Top image source: Image by senivpetro on Freepik

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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