Youth volunteers in the Arab States region collaborate with UN Women and Sweden to celebrate International Women’s Day

Date: Thursday, March 8, 2018

Cairo, Egypt – In celebration of the International Women’s Day 2018, UN Women joined forces with Sweden’s embassies around the Arab States region and with hundreds of youth volunteers to convene a series of edit-a-thons to promote knowledge of women and their experiences through the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

This youth-led initiative, known as #HerStory, aims to increase the number of articles on Wikipedia that relate the stories and experiences of women. While women and girls make up 50% of the world’s population, a recent survey showed that less than 13% of Wikipedia contributors worldwide are women and only 4.2% of all articles on Arabic Wikipedia are about women’s lives and experiences, while 80% of Wikipedia biographies worldwide are about men.

UN Women has been working with youth networks across the Arab States region to address this imbalance, with an ambitious target of doubling the number of articles on Wikipedia that address gender and empowerment of women and girls between 2018 and 2020. This target entails the production of 25,000 articles by the end of 2020. In the two years since its launch, #HerStory has contributed more than 2,000 articles on Wikipedia and trained more than 500 volunteer editors. The #HerStory initiative aims to make invisible women more visible and to counter negative stereotypes about women by showcasing their important contributions throughout human history.

Noting this internet gender gap, the Government of Sweden began the initiative #WikiGap to increase the number of articles about women on Wikipedia, including through organizing edit-a-thons with partners and volunteers. A worldwide drive is being held on International Women’s Day, and WikiGap will take place in parallel in more than 40 countries, organised by Sweden’s embassies, the Wikimedia Foundation and UN Women. WikiGap is a concrete example of Sweden’s feminist foreign policy, which aims to strengthen women’s and girls’ rights, representation and resources.

Embassies of Sweden in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, UAE, Iraq, and Lebanon have partnered with HerStory networks to close the WikiGap, with hundreds of volunteers working together to edit and translate articles into Arabic to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment on the occasion of International Women’s Day. The global theme for this year’s IWD is “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives”. More than 300 volunteer editors gathered for the edit-a-thon in Cairo and highlighted articles on women activists from rural locations in the Arab States region.

“Gender equality is essential to progress and development,” said the Swedish Ambassador to Egypt H.E. Mr. Jan Thesleff. “We are happy to participate as one of more than 40 Swedish embassies globally that will be part of the WikiGap campaign. Highlighting women and their achievements is an important step in bridging the gender gap around the world. Egypt, with its young and dynamic population, can play an essential role in this endeavor.”

“Education does not exist only in schools or universities; open source platforms like Wikipedia are changing the structure of digital knowledge. Our volunteers are researching, translating, editing, and analyzing data that makes the invisible women more visible,” said May Hashem, HerStory Co-Founder.

“HerStory is an important initiative for everyone through which young people have committed their time and efforts to create change and contribute to enhancing the content on Wikipedia related to women and gender equality to close the gender knowledge gap. We need to ensure the sustainability of this initiative as we move into the next steps of implementing the sustainable development goals in Egypt and across the whole region," said Ms. Blerta Aliko, Egypt Country Representative, UN Women.

The event also included a presentation of the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) MENA – Egypt and Because I Am a Man campaign, followed by a discussion on gender issues in the region.