Clelia Luro was an Argentine journalist, writer, social activist and supporter of liberation theology who spent her life advocating for the reform of the civil status of Catholic priests. This would enable them to choose between celibacy and marriage, as Catholic ministers are not allowed to marry or have children.
Her story, and those of almost 400 other women, have been written on Wikipedia thanks to the largest international Wikimedia contest based on female biographies.
La mujer que nunca conociste (“The woman you never knew”) was run by Wikimedia Iberocoop—a broad collection of Spanish-, Portuguese-, and Italian-speaking Wikimedia affiliates—during the months of March and April 2015, alongside other initiatives like workshops and edit-a-thons held locally by chapters and user groups. Many people worked to organize the contest, including volunteers and staff from seven different chapters, user groups and working groups across Ibero-America and Europe.
We identified three main aspects which made the contest successful:
- The contest was suggested for some time in the Iberocoop circle, but the concept really took off during Iberoconf 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The conference saw a substantial increase in the number of female participants compared to the previous year. There, we had the chance to get to know each other, share our visions, and set the ground rules for the contest. In-person meetings can have a major impact on developing projects and exploring new ideas.
- Working amongst people with similar cultural and social backgrounds has made communication easier and smoother. While the countries in Iberocoop are far from identical, we do have a shared sense of welcoming and caring. We started with five organizers, and ended up with almost twenty. New participants’ ideas have been listened to, and their work greatly appreciated. A caring and friendly atmosphere is essential for a good initiative.
- After lengthy discussion, we decided not to apply for a grant to cover our costs. As this was our first experience organizing such a big initiative, we preferred to have sole control over the execution of the project. This has proven to be very effective, since we have been able to manage the unexpected with ease, without the pressure of having fixed outcomes to achieve. Having this flexibility is very useful in preventing volunteers from burning out and suffering from stress.
Our efforts and commitment led to amazing results. The contest saw the creation of 389 new articles; had 43 participants, of which 17 were women (38%); and a total of 13.7 megabytes of text content was added. But these numbers are not the most important thing—what we’re really proud of is how we achieved them, and how we set a baseline for new initiatives and projects. We are already discussing how we can improve our work and organize a bigger and better contest next year. If you studied some Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese, it’s time to start practicing again and think about which articles you might write!