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10th year anniversary of Bengali Wikipedia.jpg
Jimmy Wales with the Wikipedians and guests at the Gala Event. Photo by Sukanta Das, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

The tenth anniversary of the Bangla Wikipedia was marked by Wikimedia Bangladesh (WMBD) with a series of events across the country. Through the first ever nationwide event, over the course of seven months, we endeavored to engage and train as many volunteers and Wikipedians as possible to organize events and increase outreach in every division of Bangladesh.

Jimmy Wales attended the Gala Event in February 2015 to mark the anniversary. The State Minister for ICT Divisions, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, attended the 10th Anniversary Conference as the chief guest, where over 300 old and new Wikipedians from Bangladesh and India took part.

Bangla Wikipedia was launched in January 2004, and the site now boasts more than 36,000 articles edited by over 100 active Wikipedians. The 10th anniversary programs were originally scheduled for 2014, but a national parliamentary election and subsequent political instability meant events were postponed to the first half of 2015.

Our strategic priorities included increasing the Bangla Wikipedia’s reach in the country, as well as training existing and new Wikipedians to make quality contributions. We hosted and kindled several initiatives and events, including Wikipedia workshops, rewards for the best Wikipedians, a photography contest, photowalks, school programs, a gala event, and a tenth anniversary conference. Telecommunication service provider Grameenphone provided financial and logistic support to organize the divisional workshops and a tenth anniversary press-conference. The rest of the events were organized by WMBD with funds from the Wikimedia Foundation.

The best contributor among the new Wikipedians receives an award from guests, including Jimmy Wales, at the Gala Event. Photo by Shabab Mustafa, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

The seven month-long tenth anniversary celebration included a wide variety of events:

  • The celebration began with a press conference held in November 2014, which was attended by many of the prominent news sources in Bangladesh. The newsmen were briefed about the event outline, the growth of the Bangla Wikipedia over the past decade, and our goals for the events.
  • The “Bangla Wikipedia Photography Contest” began on September 1, 2014 and lasted until December 31. The theme of the contest was landscape and heritage of Bangladesh. Participants were asked to upload photos onto Wikimedia Commons, and more than 4,600 were submitted.
  • The first of the seven divisional workshops was held on November 29, 2014 in Chittagong. Grameenphone sponsored seven workshops, which were held in all seven divisions of Bangladesh. Separate from these, a number of Wikipedia workshops were organized by WMBD in partnership with universities in Dhaka and Rajshahi. The workshops provided hands-on training to the participants on contributing and editing Bangla Wikipedia, and were attended by university students and new Wikipedians. The best three participants of each workshops, based on their contributions (over a time period of two months) to Bangla Wikipedia, were then invited to the Gala Event.
  • The Gala Event was held in February 2015 in Dhaka with Jimmy Wales in attendance as the chief guest. The event was attended by around 300 invited participants, including Wikimedians, other guests from different universities, and from the government. A panel discussion was held with Jimmy Wales, Munir Hasan (President of WMBD), representatives from Telecom operators partnered with Wikipedia Zero, and education activists. They discussed ways for fostering free availability of knowledge and information through Wikimedia projects in Bangladesh.
  • Eight photowalks were held in Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi and Rangpur, aiming to engage and encourage photographers to contribute photos to Wikimedia Commons. A second goal was to collect photographs of architectural, historical, and archaeological sites in Bangladesh. An average of ten to fifteen photographers attended each photowalk, which covered Old Dhaka, the National Botanical Garden, Chittagong University, Puthia Temple Complex, and Sylhet city.

Bangla Wikipedia Workshop at Chittagong Independent University. Photo by Nahid Sultan, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

Best WIkipedian award and photography contest winners, organizers and guests at the 10th anniversary conference. Photo by Kanon Ahammad, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

  • The main program in the series was the Bangla Wikipedia 10th Anniversary Conference, held on May 30, 2015 at Daffodil International University. The conference acted as the biggest gathering of Bangla Wikipedia contributors from both Bangladesh and India. There were a number of workshops and sessions at the program, including Collaboration between the Bangladeshi and Indian Bengali Wikipedians and Increasing women contributors in the growth of Bangla Wikipedia, with many concentrating on creating quality articles and contributing to Wikimedia Commons. There were over 320 participants, and the best Bangladeshi contributors over the last decade were recognized alongside the best three photographers of the photography contest. Eminent writer and journalist Anisul Hoque inspired the attendance by describing how useful Wikipedia is to him. The conference received substantial press coverage.
  • The Wikipedia School Programs were designed more to encourage students to effectively use Wikipedia for their benefit than to contribute to it. It was held on June 16, 2015 at Shaheed Police Smrity School & College in Dhaka; about 80 students from 9th to 12th grade were present, including five teachers. Students were provided with leaflets that contained brief instructions about using and contributing to the Bangla Wikipedia. It was the first time in the country that a Wikipedia-related event was held in a school.

Instead of holding one program to mark the anniversary, this series of events allowed us to conduct extensive outreach programs across Bangladesh that increased reach and included hands-on training for Wikipedians. One of our key purposes in organizing this series of events was to involve the new volunteers with the old ones and enhance organizing capacity through volunteer engagement.

This also provided advantage in terms of organizational effectiveness, as local volunteers in cities where no Wikipedia related activities had ever been held could organize programs by themselves—of the many Bangla Wikipedia events held in the past, almost all were in Dhaka and Chittagong. A few Wikipedians hailed from other areas of the country.

Our events covered all seven divisional cities, thus paving the way for growing Wikipedia communities in those areas of the country. It is imperative for Wikimedia affiliates to involve people from different places and backgrounds to disseminate the Wikimedia movement in a wider context, and to increase editor diversity in the Wikimedia community.

Tanweer Morshed
Executive Committee Member
Wikimedia Bangladesh