This past Saturday, November 25th, was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, as designated by the United Nations General Assembly. This day serves to raise awareness for gender-based violence around the world, as well as to shed light on the scale of the problem, which is often obscured. November 25th also kicked off the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence through December 10, which is Human Rights Day. Wikipedia is a great resource for educating oneself on these issues around the world. Unfortunately, though, not everything that should be on the platform is. Yet. That’s where Wiki Education comes in. We work with hundreds of instructors and thousands of students to address these content gaps and to improve our most popular source of information.
Wiki Education supports a number of courses each semester that focus on adding content to women-centered topics on Wikipedia. We’re highlighting student work from two such courses from Fall 2016. Lisa Anderson’s course Global Feminist Theory at Arizona State University developed articles on global feminisms, as well as women’s rights activist groups around the world. And Megan Osterbur’s course at Xavier University of Louisiana, Politics of Gender and Sexuality, developed Wikipedia articles around women’s and LGBT movements for civil rights.
Students in Lisa Anderson’s course significantly expanded the article on the General Union of Syrian Women. This group of activist women was founded in 1967, and still serves to empower, mobilize, and educate Syrian women. The Union works to promote equality among the sexes in Syria, raise standards of living for women, and increase awareness of systemic injustices against Syrian women. The activist group also provides education, health services, childcare, and career and family planning to women daily.
Students also contributed to the article on Violence against women in Guatemala, a country that–according to Wikipedia–“has one of the most prevalent rates of violence against women in the world.” The article covers femicide in Guatemala, violence against women during militarization and as an act of war, violence against indigenous populations, and attacks on female activists. The article highlights legislation seeking to improve conditions for women in Guatemala, but also the barriers that changemakers face within the justice system.
Megan Osterbur’s students at Xavier University contributed to the article on the Women’s Political Council, an organization founded in Montgomery, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement, for the advancement of African-American rights. According to Wikipedia, the organization’s initial purposes were “to foster women’s involvement in civic affairs, to promote voter registration through citizenship education, and to aid women who were victims of rape or assault.” They were also the first group to call for the Montgomery bus boycott, and helped organize and sustain the effort. Mary Fair Burks, Jo Ann Robinson, Irene West, Thelma Glass, and Uretta Adair were among the WPC’s members.
Students in Megan Osterbur’s course also contributed to the Wikipedia article on Gender policing, “the imposition or enforcement of normative gender expressions on an individual who is perceived as not adequately performing, through appearance or behavior, the sex that was assigned to them at birth.” Gender policing is generally a social act, rather than something enacted institutionally or through public policy (that would be Gender mainstreaming). Gender policing is part of a larger culture of patriarchal norms. These norms privilege men and promote male dominance throughout society. It is often men who reinforce these structures through acts like gender policing, as a way of maintaining their cultural, social, and political power.
Contributing content to Wikipedia creates more accessible knowledge for all. In the face of worldwide violence against women and other systemic issues, it’s important to stay informed and have this information readily available. If you’d like to teach with Wikipedia or learn more about what Wiki Education offers, visit our informational page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: File:16 Days of Activism campaign – Solomon Islands (14038247499).jpg, by UN WOMEN Pacific, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.