December 20: Rohini and Chinmayi from India
“Knowledge Equity” essentially means fixing an imbalance via two means: equal access to knowledge for groups traditionally excluded from it, and recognition of the knowledge possessed by different social groups and demographics. Women, for example, were not allowed opportunities for formal education or even basic literacy in the Indian subcontinent around the 19th century. Women also continue to be denied the freedom of speech and expression in many parts of the world. The stories, academic works, books, folklore, oral histories and everyday practices of less privileged social groups shine a light on the point of view and the lived experiences of people who have been traditionally overshadowed by more dominant social groups. However, oral transmissions are not acknowledged as legitimate sources of knowledge. At best these are considered anecdotal evidence, “memories”, or “unreliable sources” of knowledge.
We have been persistently working towards creating more space for inclusion of the demographics that are absent from the table among the Wikimedia communities in India and elsewhere. We jointly drafted and implemented the very first Code of Conduct to govern a Wikimedia event in India. This was the WikiConference India in 2016. We also drafted an allied framework sting of diversity and inclusion guidelines for organisers, a Friendly Space Policy, an incident resolution mechanism, and served on the Incident Response team of the conference.
In 2018, we received a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation to create the Community Toolkit for Greater Diversity as both reference material and a platform to have conversations around diversity and to support diverse voices to speak about their stories. As a part of this project, we held a training workshop to support women interested in leadership and inclusion through the materials in this toolkit.
Unfortunately, there is very little support or financial resources for promoting knowledge equity. The funding processes for initiatives that support equity need to not depend on popular support. This way of funding a project to support equity is an oxymoron. The checks and balances necessary to fund and sustain a project need to be defined by mechanisms other than those that resemble popularity contests. This is because social capital and social currency (or lack thereof) are which are among the reasons behind marginalisation in the first place.
The movement needs to be willing to learn, listen and provide space for marginalised voices. This applies to everyone including us. The Wikimedia Foundation and community members in positions of power need to create and support processes that promote knowledge equity. These systems need to be created via both the top-down and bottom-up approaches. The path to achieve knowledge equity is a long and difficult and there are no quick fixes to this. The key is to keep doing this work consistently and systematically.
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