It has been around eight months since I traveled to the U.S for the first time to attend Ada Camp D.C. Looking back, I find the Ada Camp as one of the most fulfilling experiences I had ever had.
The Ada initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the participation and status of women in open technology and culture. They organize the Ada Camp and other women’s hangouts in different cities of the world. The one I attended was the second Ada Camp held in Washington D.C, U.S.A.
I had to appear for my exams soon after the camp, and I was skeptical if I would get a U.S visa. I was the only attendee traveling from India. I would miss my classes at the University for a week, and I knew that catching them up would be hard. Despite all these, I decided that I should attend the Ada Camp anyway. I guess I was lucky, because I got the visa without much hassle. I was granted leave from college. I couldn’t believe that I would be flying to join the Ada Campers in Washington D.C!
The Ada Camp brought together more than 100 enthusiastic women from all over the world. The attendees were a diverse mix of individuals, homemakers, mommies, engineers, researchers, students, social media analysts and many other people from different backgrounds. The participants were from different nationalities, but all of them were driven into applying for the Ada Camp because of their sheer love for open source stuff. I met many women who are in many ways similar to me. I could take part in discussions which centered around topics of my liking, which widened my perspective. The notes shared by the participants on etherpad were very useful for future reference. I could learn a wide variety of skills including coding and Karate! Being a student, I was fully unaware of the gender issues at workplace, and Ada camp gave me an opportunity to learn about best practices for working women. The two days of the camp was fully packed up with so much of knowledge that was relevant to me.
With a fellow Ada Camper. Photo by Chit Thiri Maug
While traveling back to India, I was deeply satisfied. I had too many projects in mind, and the potential to work towards accomplishing them – Ada Camp put me in touch with the right people and right resources to get me started. Listening to the success stories of other participants helped me overcome my initial inertia, and stimulated me to work hard towards increasing the participation of women in Wikimedia projects.
It was after the camp that the WikiWomenCollaborative, an initiative to engage women in Wikimedia, was launched. The initiative was launched by a fellow Ada Camper Sarah Stierch. Heather Walls, who designed the Collaborative’s page, was also an Ada Camper. Together, we conducted many activities including editing articles, blogging and social networking to bring more women to Wikipedia and help the existing women editors to actively contribute to Wikipedia. Meeting Sarah and Heather in person at the Ada Camp helped me overcome the cultural and communication barriers and work collaboratively with them. It would not have been possible otherwise because of cultural and communication problems involving communicating solely online.
Ada Camp gave me a taste of coding. I wrote my first code in Python during my training session at Ada Camp. Though it was a small code involving adding numbers, I was so happy to have accomplished a skill! I am not good at coding yet, but the Camp helped me to get over my fear of codes. I have been improving fairly, and I dream of writing a useful code someday. Gathering ideas from the Ada Camp, I successfully conducted a conference in my city in open space format. I have forgotten the 10 life saving karate moves I mastered during the camp, but I still cherish the learning sessions when we had a lot of fun practicing the moves on each other.
After participating in the Camp, I started spending quality time on Wikipedia on activities that are directly relevant to women. I started writing on Geek Feminism Wiki and got involved in writing blogs about women in open knowledge projects. I could get myself updated on recent issues that concern women from the Ada Camp alumni mailing list. The alumni mailing list also helped me maintain the contacts I made during the Camp. Talking at the Ada Camp increased my confidence in public speaking, and I have given three talks since the Camp.
Now, I have been involved in many open knowledge related activities that involve outreach, mobilizing people, conduct Wikipedia workshops and mobilizing funds. My participation at the Ada Camp enabled me to carry out these activities productively.
Yes, Ada Camp literally changed my life.