Rwanda: How Local Initiative Is Driving Women Representation On World’s Largest Encyclopedia

Rwandan women from various sectors have been profiled and added on Wikipedia, the world’s largest encyclopaedia.

Biographies of 264 women from across fields such as politics, activism, sports and the art industry have been profiled both in English and Kinyarwanda, bringing their total to over 400.

The initiative by the Wikimedia Community User Group Rwanda, a Non-Governmental Organisation, works to increase the representation of articles by, and about women on Wikipedia.

The articles were created by different Rwandan Wikipedia editors through an initiative called ‘Wikigap challenge’ that aimed to increase coverage of various Rwandan women across sectors, on Wikipedia in terms of content and contributors.

It was the third edition organised by the NGO, which, among other activities, sensitises and trains different communities in Rwanda about Wikipedia with much emphasis on Kinyarwanda Wikipedia.

According to Derrick Orta Ndahiro, President of the organisation, the challenge lasted for 45 days (from April 30 to June 14) and they had 26 participant editors with the majority being females.

To him, the result went beyond their expectations because they expected around 80 new biographies but in the end, they got 264 while 100 more were improved which made the total exceed 400 biographies.

On July 23, the top three winners of the Wikigap challenge were awarded with vouchers worth Rwf 150,000, Rwf 80,000 and Rwf 70,000, respectively.

Ndahiro said that they are going to offer capacity building sessions for the winners so that they can be fully equipped to go and teach others.

He added: “We intend to train more people so that we can join hands in bridging the information gap that exists online.”

Winners speak out

Protais Uwayezu, who came in first position, created 37 articles about women that include Mathilde Mukantabana, Rwandan Ambassador to the United States and Marie Thérèse Mukamulisa, a judge of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

He is happy not only for winning the challenge but also for contributing to bridging the internet gender gap.

“Taking an initiative to write about a female footballer, politician or creative makes me happy because I am inspiring many young ladies. When they read about these people on Wikipedia, they realise that it’s possible for a woman to achieve great things,” he said.

Uwayezu is set to keep updating articles about the people he wrote about, including women, given that their information might change with time.

His goal is to keep helping people to find information about Rwandans and things related to the country on Wikipedia.

Rosine Igirimpuhwe, who came second, created 36 articles about women that include Claire Karekezi, the first Rwandan female neurosurgeon and Beatha Mukakamanzi, a popular Rwandan actress, in both English and Kinyarwanda.

Throughout the process, she learned that Rwandan women have done and are doing great jobs in different sectors that make the country’s economy and that women empowerment has been embraced.

“I’ve also realised that Rwanda has many CEOs leading different public and private institutions which I didn’t know. That is an example that shows that a woman is capable even though some people still think she doesn’t. It also showed me that I still have many steps to make. Like how I write about other women, I want someone else to write about me in the future,” she said.

Pacifique Gatete, who came third, created 34 Kinyarwanda articles about women that include Ornella Umutoni, a model and fashion designer and Aline Umutoni who plays for the national volleyball team.

In the course of the process, he was inspired by their achievements and stories about how they rose to success, especially those who are still young.

“That motivated and gave me confidence to push forward and achieve my goals. I am working hard so that I can win the upcoming challenges hence giving a great contribution to featuring Rwandans on Wikipedia,” he said.

Talking about the significance of creating content in Kinyarwanda, he said, “It’s important to add Kinyarwanda pages about women on Wikipedia. They are still very few and getting more information about them from newspapers is hard. What I do is to research using different online resources and create articles from them. That way, I know that I am also promoting the language.”

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