Monica from Colombia: Knowledge Equity Calendar

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Learning about Wikipedia and editing articles in the Wayuunaiki language edition of Wikipedia during a workshop in Guajira

December 19

For me, ‘knowledge equity’ is an idealization, a goal, something that we pursue and that motivates us to propose actions that make possible the participation and contributions of more people to the Wikimedia movement. I think we all have something to contribute, knowledge that has been inherited from our ancestors and that is based on interactions, stay and territorial appropriation. The ways in which we have organized ourselves, our own dynamics and the solutions we have found to the different challenges we encounter in the places in which we find ourselves. 

I am currently leading a very interesting project with indigenous women speaking indigenous languages with interests in education as a way to make radical changes in their groups. They have been participating in workshops where we edited wikiakua’pa (the name they gave to the Wikipedia incubator project in Wayuunaiki), we have also taken experts in different topics on new information technologies. So Wikipedia has been the means, the goal and also the project that invites us to talk about who we are, share knowledge, enunciate voices and messages that until now had not been heard and also think of the digital as a new space to share knowledge, for social participation, the claim of rights and stop being on the margins.

Mónica Bonilla
Mpbonillap, MPBONILLAP 1, CC BY-SA 4.0

In relation to social challenges, we face the issue of how knowledge has been transmitted, in the West, writing as a means of documenting and sharing knowledge prevails; however, for indigenous communities, oral tradition is the way knowledge is transmitted and constructed. Another aspect that we have found, is the social discrimination in relation to being indigenous, at least in Colombia, this is a difficult subject to address and that has not been of importance for institutions and the state. There are also ‘myths’ about indigenous languages, for example, although Colombia is the fourth country with the greatest linguistic diversity in Latin America, all languages are no longer used because it has been said that they are old, that they cannot be written or that they cannot be used in new fields such as technology. On top of that, in the communities there are some needs that are more urgent than editing Wikipedia articles, for example to get water, at least in La Guajira (place where we hold workshops with Wayuu women) there is no drinking water in many places, there is poverty and it is also a border place, so we have to understand the dynamics and adjust to the spaces and availability of communities. 

In relation to the technical challenges are those of infrastructure, connectivity in communities, technical complexity of some projects of the movement that are not as friendly with non-expert users. The number of processes involved in being an editor or contributing to Wikipedia. The format that prevails in Wikipedia (writing) and that we have rethought together with the communities, as well as the policies, other formats and above all, the sources. Not much has been written about indigenous communities from indigenous communities!

We also have linguistic challenges, languages do not have standardized writing systems, many of the spellings used in languages do not appear on the keyboards brought by computers, we have processes of creating neologisms and also interpretations about this new domain of social interaction that is the Internet.

I think it’s very important to keep working with the communities and think about the ways in which we are going to participate and share knowledge through Wikipedia. Also, we must rethink many of the aspects, impositions, the ways in which we have understood knowledge and above all, as we have validated it, because so far it has been very few people who have participated and imposed many ideas. The work now is to evaluate these ideas, share our knowledge and encourage spaces for participation of various groups, in different formats and respecting the interests and particular forms of social interaction.

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