NKOLE NKOLE, Lusaka
THE documentation of historical narratives on prominent women in different fields in Zambia has been obscured for years while narratives on men have dominated the media and history books.
However, for the first time ever, a project dubbed #WikiWomen is aiming to change what has been the status quo for years.
The project is part of a collaboration between the Women’s History Museum of Zambia and the Embassy of Sweden in Zambia aimed at addressing the under-representation of content on Wikipedia about Zambian women and covering women’s perspectives.
As Wikipedia is the world’s largest online and user-generated encyclopaedia, its content influences users’ knowledge about the world.
The International Women’s Day theme for 2018 is “Press for Progress” in recognition of the global movement on advocacy, activism and support surrounding gender parity and in light of this theme, the #WikiWomen project therefore becomes particularly relevant.
Through the project, narratives on outstanding Zambian women in different fields are being documented as a way to close the gap that has existed due to the exclusion of women in the telling of history.
In the field of firsts, women like the first Zambian female urologist, Mumba Chalwe-Kaja and the first Zambian female surgeon, Jacqueline Mulundika-Mulwanda are featured.
Among the historical Zambian women featured are freedom fighters like the late Salome Kapwepwe, doyenne of Zambian art, Cynthia Zukas, and founder of the Lumpa church, Alice Lenshina.
The profiles of inspiring contemporary women leaders in business and entrepreneurship such as Monica Musonda and Mizinga Melu are also featured as are visual artists and celebrities like Gladys Kalichini and Mampi.
The Women’s History Museum of Zambia was founded in 2016 by author and cultural history expert, Mulenga Kapwepwe and media specialist, Samba Yonga to restore narratives of women in Zambian contemporary and traditional history.
Women’s History Museum of Zambia co-founder, Samba Yonga, said the project is part of the museum’s mandate to preserve history on women and influence how information about African women is curated, distributed and consumed.
“We’re testing the theory that if we populate portals of information with stories about women then we will have more representation online,” Yonga shared.
The project is the result of a collaboration between the Women’s Museum of Zambia and the Embassy of Sweden in Lusaka to increase the number of narratives on Wikipedia on Zambian women who have contributed to the country’s traditional and contemporary history and to help make the internet more gender-equal.
The idea in Zambia was adopted by the Embassy of Sweden in South Africa who contracted the Women’s History Museum of Zambia after identifying it as a suitable candidate for the project.
Part of the project involves wiki-edit-a-thons which are gatherings where groups of writers are trained by Wikipedia in content gathering and writing.
Almost 40 Zambian writers were trained by a Wikipedia representative from South Africa over the course of three days last month and immediately began writing stories about women that were nominated by the public and later shortlisted by a committee.
The focus in Zambia is on contemporary and traditional women who have influenced Zambia’s history. The project is also another way of closing the gender gap.
Presently, 90 percent of the content on Wikipedia is created by men and there are four times more articles about men than there are about women.
The Embassy of Sweden in Zambia further points out that there is great imbalance on the website, like in society at large and while the figures vary regionally, the picture is the same all over the world.
In addition, information about women is not as descriptive as that about men and is also more negative and different in character.
The embassy announced that 70 women were published so far on Wikipedia with a continued process of documentation to carry on in phases.
The gender equality goal is fundamentally a human rights issue, states Swedish Ambassador to Zambia, Henrik Cederin.
“The #WikiWomen initiative primarily concerns representation, which in turn concerns reflecting the world as it actually appears. We want to see women profiles, to the same extent as men, represented in all contexts, including on the Internet. The #WikiWomen initiative in Zambia is timely indeed and links to the Swedish global campaign #WikiGap to close the Internet gender gap,” Ambassador Cederin says.
The list of women’s stories that went live beginning on February 28, included updates (for those profiles that already existed on Wikipedia) and new entries.
“The Women’s History Museum wants to create a ground swell of Zambian history on Wikipedia and this is the first stage of this operation. It was imperative to create a corp of Zambian men and women writers to drive this project. The idea is to have quarterly themed edit-a-thons where the Zambian Wikipedians will meet and continue to add to the database,” museum co-founder, Mulenga Kapwepwe says.
NKOLE NKOLE, Lusaka