News & Media

CHS hosts innovative #HerStory Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon

The Swedish Embassy in Pretoria and Unisa are inviting the public to write articles or biographies on local women who they think excel in their fields. The works will be published on one of the most popular online encyclopaedias, Wikipedia.

This was heard recently when the Embassy in collaboration with Unisa’s Department of English Studies and WikimediaZA hosted a #HerStory Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon event at Unisa’s Department of Communication Science’s Digital Teaching Lab.

Director for WikimediaZA, Bobby Shabangu, described the edit-a-thon as a community-organised event that aims to teach people how to edit, update, and add articles on Wikipedia. It also serves as a way to increase content on the platform, as in this case on South African women representation.

Wikipedia is one of the most visited encyclopaedia websites in the world; however, information on Wikipedia and many other platforms is often prejudiced and contributes towards biases that affect women. “This subsequently leads to a misrepresentation of women,” said Shabangu, adding that another aim of the edit-a-thon was to address the alarming statistic that about 91% of editors on Wikipedia are men and there are about four times as many articles about men compared to women.

Facilitating a practical session that taught participants how to open a Wikipedia account, write, edit and contribute on Wikipedia, Shabangu explained that Wikipedia is a free encyclopaedia, written collaboratively by its users. He said it could be edited by anyone on any page for as long as it is not locked. He added that there are thousands of changes made on Wikipedia per hour.

The #HerStory Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon hosted by the Swedish Embassy in Pretoria in collaboration with Unisa’s Department of English Studies and WikimediaZA was broadcast live through the Digital Teaching Lab in the Department of Communication Science. This allowed for a group of woman in Sweden who are actively contributing to the information wealth on the Wikipedia platform to participate.

He also presented the five pillars that hold up Wikipedia. The first pillar is that Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia; the second is that it is written from a neutral point of view; the third is that it is free content that anyone can use, edit and distribute; the fourth is that it dictates for editors to treat each other with respect and civility; and the fifth pillar is that it has no firm rules.

The #HerStory Edit-A-Thon was broadcast live through the Digital Teaching Lab in the Department of Communication Science, and included in the audience a group of woman in Sweden who are actively contributing to the information wealth on Wikipedia platform. They shared their experiences where most of them agreed that generally, Wikipedia is very hostile to women, and, as a result, they feel undermined.

To conclude, Claudia Fratini from the Department of English Studies, advised that a valuable lesson to take away from the edit-a-thon was that it was an exercise for women to add to the body of knowledge. And if at all they had trouble getting the right subject to write about, they should know that there are women already on Wikipedia that any Wikipedian can add information about. She added that edit-a-thon is not only about creating new material, it is also about adding to what is already there.

Click here to watch the SABC Morning Live interview on the Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon.

The 2017 National Women’s Day celebrations pay tribute to women and their role in the liberation struggle. This year’s celebration coincides with the centenary of struggle icon OR Tambo.

Women’s Month takes place against a backdrop of an increase in the levels of violence and brutality against women and children in our society.

This year’s event also takes place against a backdrop of a poor performing economy. Invariably, women will be most affected by the economic decline and bear the brunt of its resultant negative economic and social effects.

The 2017 celebrations will build on the announcements made by President Zuma with regard to women economic emancipation; addressing issues of gender based violence and give more impetus to government and society’s efforts in this regard.

This year marks the 61st anniversary of the Women’s March to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956. On that day up to 20 000 women of all races, class and religious pesuasions protested against the extension of Pass Laws. The march was a turning point in the role of women in the struggle for freedom and our society at large.

The national celebrations will also include the National Dialogues on Violence against Women to help combat the continued scourge of violent attacks and abuse against women. The dialogues are a platform for deepening democracy whilst ensuring safer and crime-free communities especially for women and children.

Advances made since 1994

Great strides have been made since 1994 to improve the status of women.

Prior to 1994, the South African Parliament had a mere 2,7% representation of women, and following the first democratic elections, women representation in the National Assembly stood at 27,7%. In 1999 that figure increased to 30% and then to 32.7% in 2004.

After the 2009 national elections women representation reached 42%. Currently women ministers comprise 41% of the Cabinet, women deputy ministers make up 47% of the total number of deputy ministers and there is a 41% representation of women in the National Assembly. The Women in Politics 2015 Map launched by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women shows how South Africa fares in relation to the rest of the world.

Furthermore, government policies and programmes have improved the living conditions of women. In 1997 the Office on the Status of Women (OSW) was established in the Presidency to steer the national gender programme and championed the development of the National Policy Framework for Women Empowerment and Gender Equality that was approved by Cabinet in 2000. Subsequently, similar structures were established in the Premier’s offices.

In May 2009 the President pronounced on the establishment a Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD). In May 2014 the President evolved the structure to a dedicated Ministry for Women in the Presidency as a way of elevating women’s issues and interests to lead, coordinate and oversee the transformation agenda on women’s socio-economic empowerment, rights and equality through mainstreaming, monitoring and evaluation.

Since the advent of democracy and freedom South Africa has seen a number of women taking up leadership positions in areas previously dominated by men. One of the success stories of our democracy is that of the representation of women in political and decision-making positions. Involving women in governance processes constitutes one of South Africa’s globally acclaimed success stories.

The election of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in July 2012 as the first women in Africa to chair the African Union Commission; the appointment of Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Deputy President of the country, as the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women; and the positioning of other South African women such as Ms Geraldine Frazer-Moleketi, Special Gender Envoy to the African Development Bank; Ms Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences; and Judge Navi Pillay as the High Commissioner for Human Rights and formerly as a judge in the International Criminal Court (ICC) is an indication of the impact that women in decision-making have in winning the trust and confidence of citizens in South Africa, on the continent and internationally.

Currently, women are heading portfolios such as the Public Protector; CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and the first female Deputy Auditor-General, among others.

Prior to 1994, South Africa had only one woman Judge, whilst today women judges make up almost 28% of the Judiciary. Women are making inroads into business leadership and heading up global giants in the country such as the head of the ABSA bank. Women own conglomerates in the country with some business women being millionaires.

Women also can be found as chairpersons of corporate boards in the country, while others are entering and leading in previously male dominated territories and the South African Airways (SAA) now has women pilots, some flying international bound flights.

Women are in the defence force, navy and air force in South Africa. In fact women make up almost 40% of the Senior Management Service in the public service and overall women comprise more than 50% of employees in the Public Service.

Women have even entered previously male dominated areas in the corporate world, and currently constitute 3.6% of CEO positions, 5.5% of chairperson positions, 17.1% of directorships and 21.4% of executive management positions.

*By Katlego Pilane