This poem won the S.Challenge Memorial Poetry Prize, 2012. The award ceremony will happen in Trivandrum Press Club on 12th May 2013. If you would like to attend the function, please leave a comment or mail me directly so that I can send you a copy of the invitation card.
I wrote this poem in one stretch after reading about the Abu Ghraib prison torture.
My uncle Sam is a hefty man.
He has a golden tooth.
You now know why he smiles a little wider.
When I quit the slave’s job
at his firm that buys oil in exchange for food
he held a pistol at my temple
and told me that I have two choices in life-to be killed in a war,
or to kill in an anti-war.
Since both of them involved exploding my brains,
I escaped through the window.
He sued me, for leaving through the wrong exit.
Dad can’t pay a million for the bail,
in dollars, with interest compounded.
My peers at jail were charged for nailing bombs
to non-existent walls, for wearing skull caps,
for stealing bread. Even the deputy’s dog torture us here.
Reader, if u r stil human,
plz tell da policeman
dat i did no crime.
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.
This post first appeared on Forbes website and Women 2.0 website in August 2012.
There is nothing else that changed my life like Wikipedia. It is not just that I “edit” Wikipedia, but I also “celebrate” it.
Editing Wikipedia is a rewarding experience as it helps me gain a new perspective of things. It is also exciting to be able to share the bit of knowledge I know with the millions of knowledge seekers from around the world.
Women and Wikipedia
Like most other tech-related organizations, Wikipedia too cannot boast of high female participation. A recent research points out that only 9% of the editors of English Wikipedia are women.
Wikipedia is sensitive to the gender gap issue and is on its way to close it. The Wikimedia Foundation has set a goal to raise the share of female contributors to 25% by 2015. A WikiWomanCamp was organized this year at Buenos Aires, Argentina for the wiki-women to interact with each other, share their experiences and discuss about gender gap and related issues.
Why so few women edit?
At the WikiWomenCamp, it was pointed out by participants that women do not contribute to Wikipedia because of various socio-cultural factors. Women are traditionally assigned the responsibility of housekeeping and childrearing, which leaves them with very little time to spend for volunteering activities. Women often suffer from lack of confidence and insecurity, which makes them think that those around them are better performers than them.
Women are not clear on why and how to get involved. The specific jargon used in Wikiprojects makes some new users uncomfortable and they eventually quit editing.
There should be a deep cultural change in the tech field to value women’s contributions and make their contributions more visible to the outer world.Sue Gardener, the Executive Director of Wikimedia Foundation says, “Deliberately focus efforts on recruiting women. Don’t assume that general outreach efforts will motivate women. Encourage women to recruit other women”.
We edit! CC-BY-SA.
Why should women edit Wikipedia?
Diversity of opinion is the essence of any encyclopedia. It is important that all articles are written from a neutral point of view, and having equal representation of women editors would increase neutrality and reduce bias. Women scientists, thinkers and those women who excel in traditionally male dominated fields are given lesser biographical coverage on Wikipedia than men involved in these fields.Having more women volunteers will help reduce this skewed coverage and increase the quality of the content of Wikipedia articles.
Getting involved: You too can write on Wikipedia
Anybody can edit Wikipedia. You don’t have to be an expert in the subject to be able to edit any article. You do not have to learn any computer language to be able to edit Wikipedia. If you are interested in any specific subjects, you could join the Wikiproject for the topic to collaborate with editors of similar interests and keep updated about the latest news in the subject. There are mailing lists for many aspects of wiki-editing, including the Gendergap mailing list for increasing the participation of women in Wikiprojects. Most regional languages have Wikipedias of their own, so if you are not comfortable with contributing in English, you could contribute to the language Wikipedia of your choice.
If you have photographs of educational value, you could upload them to Wikimedia Commons to permit their usage in Wikipedia articles. Wikipedia has sister projects like Wikinews, Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikiquote etc. which also work like Wikipedia.
For more details on how to edit Wikipedia, see this Wikipedia page or contact me!
Most of us know Wikipedia as the free online encyclopedia, written collaboratively by millions of volunteers from around the world. I am one of those writers for the last 3 years. It was by writing articles about medical sciences that I started contributing to Wikipedia. Later, I was intrigued by the enormous volume of information available on Wikipedia, and was curious to find out who actually write them – which made me delve into the editor demographics. It really made me upset when I figured out that only around 9% of the contributors to Wikipedia are women. In fact, I knew that so few women write on Wikipedia, but I hadn’t expected the figure to be as low as 9 percent.
Diversity of opinion is the essence of any encyclopedia. Having equal representation from women will bring in wider perspectives, and increase the neutrality of the articles on Wikipedia. With men creating most of the content for Wikipedia, certain subjects might be covered more than a subject that may be of interest to women. Women not writing on Wikipedia mean that certain subjects may not be receiving the attention they rightfully deserve.
The Wikimedia Foundation, the not-for-profit organization that hosts Wikipedia, had recognized this problem sooner than I did. The Wikimedia Foundation has launched various programs to bridge the gender gap, and the latest addition to the list is the WikiWomen’s Collaborative.
The WikiWomen’s Collaborative was created in September 2012 by women around the world who edit Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, and want to encourage others to do the same. The project was aimed at helping women and transwomen to support one another and engage in programs that help the Wikimedian community to bring in new women editors. A variety of events, like edit-a-thons, interviews and wikiwomen parties were conducted as a part of the collaborative.
In May 2012, a WikiWomenCamp was organized for women in the Wikimedia movement to get together and discuss about the various issues related to being women involved in the Wikimedia community with like-minded women. Over 20 women from different countries participated in the camp to brainstorm solutions for existing problems that concern women, and suggest future plans to collaborate with one another. It is customary to conduct a WikiWomen’s luncheon at Wikimania, the global gathering of Wikimedians, exclusively for the women participants.
Organizations like the Ada Initiative, named for the world’s first programmer Countess Ada Lovelace, support women working with open knowledge projects like Wikipedia by creating resources for women in open stuff, conducting conferences and advising organizations on supporting women.
Many outreach programs were conducted in women’s universities all over the world to encourage students to participate in the Wikimedia movement. The Women’s History month edit-a-thons conducted every year, attracts both male and female editors to write biographies of notable women on Wikipedia.
The Wikimedia Foundation has set a goal to raise the share of female contributors to 25% by 2015. Given the good response from the community to various events conducted for women, it is likely that the foundation will achieve its goal within the set time limit.
This is the report of my interview with the Russian Wikimedian, Anastasia Lvova.
Lvova’s contributions to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia community are impressive. She runs a bot, which does automated tasks on Wikipedia. It is now active on multiple language Wikipedias. She is also a Toolserver user — where she works on the Connectivity project — and an agent for Wikipedia’s volunteer customer service group, OTRS. She has created more than 2,200 new articles and authored some good and featured articles about Ireland and the arts. She has made as many as 404 edits in a day, 23,777 actions with flagged revision in a month and more than 60,000 edits in all! She was at the lead in organizing Wiki Loves Monuments Russia in 2011. She is an advocate for free knowledge and took part in organizing protests against internet censorship in Russia. A large part of her collection of images on Wikimedia Commons are photos from her foreign trips, because according to Russian law, photos of still-in-copyright buildings are not free.
Outside the Wikimedia network, she is a photographer and writer. She graduated with a degree in management and is currently pursuing her graduate degree in psychology. She maintains a blog where she posts about her activities within and outside Wikipedia. She is also involved in charity and volunteering, and likes spending time writing letters to the elderly and children in orphanages. For her, these hobbies contribute to her activities within Wikipedia, as her hobbies help her create ideas for writing Wikipedia articles.
For Lvova, being a woman editor is a positive. She says that the Russian community is receptive to woman editors, and fellow editors have helped her from time to time. She has met like-minded individuals from the community, and has done collaborative projects with them. She has noticed that the Russian wiki-community sometimes expects feminine behavior from women editors, but she says it’s not really a problem for her. She also noted that in the past, when it was hard for women to teach in universities, they became teachers, fighting against the odds, even disguising themselves as men to be able to teach. Women should be inspired by the past and feel empowered to contribute now, she argued. “Dear women, we can do it, and sharing information has always been our competence,” she said with a smile.
Lvova enjoyed meeting other women editors in Argentina during the WikiWomenCamp, a meeting of women Wikimedians from around the world that took place in May 2012.
“WikiWomenCamp was helpful for me not only because I got new contacts and a new perspective of things, but also because it gave me some courage to work for women’s issues,” Lvova said. She was grateful to receive a grant from Wikimedia Germany to participate in WikipWomenCamp and she has been supported by Wikimedia Poland to attend two Wikimanias and several wikiconferences.
After WikiWomenCamp, Lvova started a project for new woman editors to write articles about notable women on Russian Wikipedia (they have written about 50 articles so far). She said she wishes to be helped by both men and women in her community to bridge the gender gap in Wikipedia. She thinks that this is an issue which has to be dealt with urgently. “Statistics show that around 6 to 23 percent editors are women, but we can’t be sure yet as many women prefer to disguise themselves as men because they think that a man’s opinion would be preferred over a womans,” said Lvova. She, therefore, likes to research about women’s participation in her home wiki.
Her activities on Wikimedia have helped her visit interesting places, but the most rewarding experience for her has been meeting fellow Wikimedians. Through these events she has met new people who have helped her learn fresh ideas for problems, many of which were not raised in local discussions. If you want to say a ‘hi’ to Anastasia, the best place to drop by would be her talk page, where she says she would welcome the discussion.
- If you have running shoes, pack them up! The city is seriously obsessed with running! So, join the insanity and do the sightseeing while jogging past your favourite tourist spots! If you are not a big fan of jogging, you could consider taking a bike tour or a bus tour.
- Camera is a must. Stop at the 19 foot long Lincoln Memorial, the sparkling Hope Diamond at Smithsonian Natural History Museum and the spiky Washington Monument to click a few snaps. I bet those pictures would be your most prized possessions once you reach back home!
- Get a map of the city. Maps are available for free at tourist spots and most restaurants.
|At the Lincoln Memorial|
|The specimen of the stuffed African Elephant at Smithsonian Natural History Museum|
|Exhibits at the Smithsonian Museum|
PS: Thanks to Dr. Jayakrishnan for correcting one of the obvious errors in this article. 🙂
Participating in an international conference for women is a wonderful experience. It is more rewarding when the conference is for Wikimedians to discuss issues primarily concerning women. The WikiWomenCamp, held at Buenos Aires, Argentina from 23-25 June and WikiGenero held on the next day was an enlightening experience not only for me, but also for the other 16 attendees from 15 countries of the world.
The traditionally assigned gender role of women in India is to look after the household and rear children. With the passage of time, educated women started to get employed and started having finances of their own, but most of them still continue to fulfill the gender roles in addition to their career, leaving very little time for volunteering. The gender gap that exists in the global Wikimedia community has its reflections in India also. Although the number of women volunteers from India working with Wikimedia is rising overtime, their number is far less than that of male volunteers. With the IndiaEducation Program, many new women have ventured into Wikiprojects as CampusAmbassadors, but their number is far lesser than men.
Participants of the WikiWomenCamp, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Women in technology all over the world are facing similar challenges, says Shruti, one of the coordinators of the conference. Women are stereotyped throughout the career that they are not good enough to pursue a career in computing, which seriously decreases their self confidence. There is a scarcity of women role-models and mentors which women can emulate, mostly leaving them to carve a niche on their own. Women, being so little in number, are alienated at workplace and college by their peers, which significantly demoralize them. Women also lack access to influential social networks which limit their career growth. Shruti adds that, in India, the gender roles defined for women are more exacting than in other parts of the world, leaving them with a poor work-life balance.
Flying 19 hours with 7 hour transit just for a three day stay at the US is worth it only if you are planning to do something big. My three day trip to the US, with two of the days spent at the Ada Camp was worth it as every moment spent with the Ada campers was highly stimulating.
On the first day, we began by introducing ourselves, which was fun because we had to do it in three words! It was hard to find the right three words to describe myself! (medico, blogger, Wikimedian?) Then, I went about meeting people who had come from different parts of the world. It was hard to decide which session to attend, because there were eight wonderful parallel sessions at a time, and given a chance, I would want to attend all of them! There were, in total, 32 sessions, spanned out in two days, which were attended by a mix of audience – students, professionals and jobseekers.
I attended four sessions on the first day of the Camp, which were very useful :
1. Can the women’s movement save Wikipedia?– The discussion was about the gender gap issues in Wikipedia and the role of existing women editors in increasing the participation of women in Wikimedia projects. The suggestions that came up where very interesting, and the Wikimedians who participated in this discussions planned to launch projects to improve women’s participation in Wikiprojects.
2. How to convince people about the importance of gendergap in Wikimedia projects?- It is often difficult to make people understand the seriousness of the problems related to gender imbalance in the editor community, and this session proved to be useful in knowing the attitudes of people who are against gender-sensitive projects. There was a productive discussion on what is to be done in order to provide more attention to gendergap in Wikiprojects.
3. How non-techie people can contribute to technology projects?- This session featured a discussion on the role of non-techie people in projects that deal with technology. Many women who had no prior experience with technology said that they were comfortable with tech-related projects. After all, anything could be easy for you if you are willing to learn!
4. How to choose a mentor?- A session with heavy attendance on the qualities of a right mentor, the reasons why you should have a mentor especially if you are a newbie, issues with women having male mentors and what to do if the mentor behaves badly with you!
The second day was interesting too! It was on this day that I got acquainted with Python and webapps! The sessions in which I participated in the second day are:
1. Ada Camp in other continents?- On reaching out to more people through the Ada initiative, conducting Ada camps in different countries and challenges involved in doing the same. Wish we could conduct the next Ada camp in India!
2. How to program in Python?– Not having programmed in Python anytime in the past, it was interesting to find out the basics of programming with a bunch of women with similar interests. And yippee! I created my own programs in Python to perform simple tasks!
3. 10 moves that could save your life – The code for the moves, I still remember, is HACKERPUB. It was interesting to see the moves being demonstrated, and we split up into couples and practiced a few of the moves on each other. It built my confidence to know a few awesome moves that could be of help when in the face of danger.
4. My first webapp – The session helped every attendee in creating her own webapp. Creating a webapp on one’s own might sound too complicated, but it proved to be easy when the facilitator guided us through the whole process.
The participants were served Ethiopian and Lebanese food, and it was awesomely delicious! The notes on the sessions were documented on piratepad for future reference. The closing session on both days featured some awesome games, and all of us seemed to enjoy participating in them.
A few things I decided to do after deriving encouragement at the Ada camp:
1. To move completely to ubuntu.
2. To learn more of Python-programming and complement my knowledge in Python in making useful edits in Wikipedia.
3. To involve in projects that welcome newbies to Wikiprojects, making Wiki-editing a pleasurable and rewarding experience for them.
My participation at the Ada camp gave me insights about the issues that I might face at the workplace and University as a woman, ideas to deal with them, and to excel in the chosen field of work by encouraging others to participate by mentoring, learning and by managing time to create an effective work-leisure balance.