Critical issues presentations/Gender gap in the global south: Lessons from policy and outreach

From Wikimania 2016 • Esino Lario, Italy
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Submission no. 17
Title of the submission

Gender gap in the global south: Lessons from policy and outreach

Author of the submission
  • Rohini Lakshané
Country of origin



Governance, Outreach, Policy

  • gender gap
  • diversity
  • global south
  • access to knowledge
  • India

Over the past decade, much research and policy work has gone into Wikipedia's gender gap: in identifying its causes, in fathoming the problem and in finding remedies. Some of the barriers for women, especially those in the global south, to participate in the creation and consumption of knowledge have been well-documented: traditional gender biases in families, issues of access (electricity, devices, stable internet), economic factors, juggling of responsibilities at home, work or school, online harassment, and so on. The gender gap widens in the case of intermediate and advanced users. Some of the challenges faced by women (and individuals who identify as women) who cross the entry barrier are different than those faced by novices, and are more difficult to address. This presentation is an attempt to share some of the significant lessons I have gathered during my tenure as the Chairperson of the Gender gap Special Interest Group at Wikimedia Chapter (India) as well as a long-time volunteer of the Wikimedia movement.

  • Communities exhibit refuse to recognise the existence of the gender gap or its magnitude. This is especially true of demographics with highly skewed gender ratios offline
  • Some community members may not be consciously and forthright sexist, but like in the real world, there is deep-seated, sub-conscious sexism, which leads them to oppose women (or their work) in these communities
  • The ingrained and invisibilised nature of sexism in the community gives acceptability to sexism.

The above three points call for outreach pertaining to gender sensitisation

  • In my experience, a trailblazing woman Wikipedian who happened to be the lone woman frontrunner in her language community refused to acknowledge the gender problem for fear of losing ‘respect’, and/ or the leadership position in the community.
  • There is a lack of role models and leadership for novice and aspiring women Wikipedias
  • There are no policy or guidelines for encouraging the participation of women and making them feel welcome both online as well as at events such as trainings and conferences. Even if such policies exist, their enforcement and implementation are spotty.
  • In small communities, everyone knows everyone else, irrespective of whether their handles reveal their real-life identities, which makes women more susceptible to harassment.


Interested attendees and comments