The Wikimedia Foundation today announced the appointment of Esra’a Al Shafei, a prominent human rights activist and a passionate defender of free expression, to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.
A native of Bahrain, Esra’a’s work aims to increase and protect free speech, promote expression for youth and underrepresented voices, and improve the lives of LGBTQ people in the Middle East and North Africa. She founded and directs Majal, a network of online platforms that amplify under-reported and marginalized voices.
“Esra’a shares Wikimedia’s foundational belief that shared knowledge can facilitate shared understanding,” said Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director, Katherine Maher. “Her achievements exemplify how intentional community building can be a powerful tool for positive change, while her passion for beautiful and engaging user experiences will only elevate our work. We are so fortunate to have her perspective in support of our global Wikimedia communities.”
Esra’a founded Majal in 2006 as Mideast Youth, at the time a series of blogs bringing a voice to marginalized and underrepresented young people across the Middle East. Today, the organization’s team helps build communities that celebrate, protect, and promote diversity and social justice. Their endeavors include CrowdVoice.org, which curates crowdsourced media to contextualize social movements throughout the world; Mideast Tunes, the largest web and mobile app showcasing underground musicians in the Middle East and North Africa who use music as a tool for social change; and Ahwaa.org, an open discussion platform for Arab LGBTQ individuals that uses game mechanics to protect and engage its community.
“When I first encountered Wikipedia shortly after obtaining an internet connection in the early 2000s, I felt that the true purpose of the internet was realized. With Wikipedia, I accessed research regarding persecuted communities in my home country and the wider region: ethnic and religious minorities whom we were discouraged from learning about, and whose histories and beliefs were dictated to us from a singular government perspective. Wikipedia’s open source and crowdsourcing practices would inspire the platforms I built to advocate for underrepresented communities, and the internet would shape my life’s work in advocating for freedom of expression and identity around the world,” said Esra’a.
Esra’a received the Berkman Award for Internet Innovation from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School in 2008 for “outstanding contributions to the internet and its impact on society.” The World Economic Forum listed her as one of “15 Women Changing the World in 2015.” She has won the “Most Courageous Media” Prize from Free Press Unlimited, and the Monaco Media Prize, which acknowledges innovative uses of media for the betterment of humanity.
She has been featured in Fast Company as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business;” in The Daily Beast as one of the 17 bravest bloggers worldwide; and in Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list of social entrepreneurs making an impact in the world.
Esra’a was a keynote speaker at Wikimania 2017 in Montreal, the annual conference centered on the Wikimedia projects.
“Esra’a brings tech expertise and a valuable perspective to the Board – coming from a region where access to information is not taken for granted. I was impressed by her talk during Wikimania 2017 on ‘Experiences from the Middle East: Overcoming Challenges and Serving Communities’. I think her experience in that region will be important to our efforts around the globe.” said Nataliia Tymkiv, Governance Chair for the Board.
Esra’a is a senior TED Fellow, an Echoing Green fellow, and a Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab. She received a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellowship in 2012 for her work on CrowdVoice.org.
Esra’a joins nine other Foundation Trustees who collectively bring expertise in the Wikimedia community, financial oversight, governance, and organizational development; and a commitment to advancing Wikimedia’s mission of free knowledge for all.
She was approved unanimously by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees. Her term is effective December 2017 and will continue for three years. Please see the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees for complete biographies.
About the Wikimedia Foundation
The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that supports and operates Wikipedia and its sister free knowledge projects. Wikipedia is the world’s free knowledge resource, spanning more than 45 million articles across nearly 300 languages. Every month, more than 200,000 people edit Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects, collectively creating and improving knowledge that is accessed by more than 1 billion unique devices every month. This all makes Wikipedia one of the most popular web properties in the world. Based in San Francisco, California, the Wikimedia Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity that is funded primarily through donations and grants.
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