Fewer than 15% of Wikipedia editors around the world are female and the coverage of articles about women on Wikipedia is often not very good. Although the Arabic Wikipedia suffers the same imbalance in its content, this is not the case for the Wikipedia Education Program in Egypt. The number of female students in the Egypt program is much higher than male ones. The program has also brought to the Arabic Wikipedia one of three female administrators as well as many high-quality articles about women.
Eman Waheed Sawabi, Amira El-Gamal and May Hachem are three students who never thought about contributing to Wikipedia until they enrolled in Dr. Radwa Kotait’s English course in Spring 2013. Dr. Kotait encouraged her students to translate Featured Articles from the English Wikipedia to the Arabic Wikipedia.
“My first article was about Alice of Battenburg (the mother of Prince Philip). Then I worked on Queen Victoria,” says May. “I like writing about women. I started recently writing about the Arabic writer May Ziade, so women are my basic concern. I’m anti-marginalizing women in any terms. Concerning writing, male and female editors are distinguished by hard work only.”
May enjoyed working with the wiki community. When she nominated one of her articles to be Featured on the Arabic Wikipedia, she started to make friends from different countries in the Arab world and meet new cultures when the members of the Wikipedia community left her comments or suggestions on the nomination page. This was a new experience for her.
May has also signed up as a Campus Ambassador in Ain Shams University in Cairo in order to help other students edit Wikipedia. “The idea of guiding someone or providing someone with knowledge is brilliant,” she said.
Eman Sawabi started her course with an article about Maya Angelou, as it reflected many social maladies that had been present in the American society, such as segregation and child rape. The article was a featured article on the English Wikipedia. Eman translated and expanded it to be featured on the Arabic Wikipedia too.
“I distinctly felt that being a female would add to Wikipedia more than what male editors do,” says Eman. “I intended to pay attention to one of the articles that talk about female figures that many male editors do not notice.”
After that, Eman wrote an article about Muhammad Al-Durrah Incident in Palestine. The article was a stub and she wondered “how such a controversial issue was outlined in a short paragraph on Wikipedia?”. The third article Eman created on the Arabic Wikipedia was Birmingham Campaign, which shows how accomplished, ardent, and sharp-witted African-Americans had been throughout claiming basic human rights.
According to Amira El-Gamal, “Men and women are equal. Everything is based on how much one is willing to give and how much one is being honest while translating.”
The education program for Amira was an exciting experience, she was waiting for an opportunity to help others and serve her society. She chose to translate an article about Geology of the Capitol Reef Area because she is fond of science and wanted to help students of Geology. Then she worked on two other articles about Sentence Spacing and Funerary Art to present an image of cultures history and how they thought.
Like May, Amira is now serving as a Campus Ambassador in her faculty. Being in contact with new students in the program and guiding them to editing techniques is another way to help her community.
Closing the gender gap on Wikipedia is an issue of quality, and these volunteer editors from the Wikipedia Education Program Egypt are helping close the gap.
Volunteer leader, Egypt Education Program