Meet Carmen Alcázar: Wikimedian of the Year 2021 Honourable Mention winner

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This year’s seven Wikimedian of the Year award winners were announced today at the 2021 virtual Wikimania convening. Read the interview below with Carmen Alcázar, recipient of the Honourable Mention Award. 

Carmen Alcázar started contributing to the Wikimedia movement ten years ago. Today, she is the President of Wikimedia Mexico and recognized as one of the most prominent gender equity activists on Spanish Wikipedia and beyond.

In 2015, Carmen started the Editatona project to increase gender diversity on Spanish Wikipedia. Since then, Editatona has hosted 60 events in Latin America. The project has been replicated in ten Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries. Carmen’s efforts have played a leading role in reducing the gender gap on Spanish Wikipedia by seven percent over the last five years. 

“In addition to contributing to a greater common good, what motivates me most is that there is so much more to write.” 

Additionally, in 2020, Carmen received the prestigious Hermila Galindo medal from the Congress of Mexico City for her efforts to improve representation of women online. 

An initiative started in 2021 – the Wikimedian of the Year Newcomer of the Year award recognizes an exceptional Wikimedian who joined the movement in the past one to two years and already made a significant contribution. 

Carmen gets the surprise call from Jimmy Wales

This recognition is one of seven awards made this year to celebrate contributors who have made an exceptional impact on our movement. The awards were announced at this year’s virtual Wikimania celebration by Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales (watch the announcement!).

“For too long, the knowledge on Wikipedia has not reflected the sum of all knowledge of all people. Carmen’s work to address the gender gap of editors on Spanish Wikipedia has been incredibly impactful in bringing awareness to what I believe is one of the most pressing issues in our movement. Thought the editatona initiative, she has built a network of institutions and collaborators dedicated to welcoming more women to Wikipedia and improving knowledge on our projects.”

– Jimmy Wales

We spoke with Carmen to learn more about her experiences and perspectives on the Wikimedia movement. Here are some highlights: 

Q: Can you share a favorite memory from your time contributing to Wikimedia?

“The experience of organizing Wikimania in Mexico City in 2015. It is the most beautiful, exciting and full-of-love moment that I have had in these ten years of participating in the Wikimedia movement. Organizing everything to receive family from so many countries, being able to share my culture, food, the things we do, the places we visit, how we dance, etc. with them, being able to talk all the time but at home. I don’t think anything else will ever surpass it.”

Q: Why did you create “ Editatona” and how do you see the future of the project?

“Editatona is the feminist response for combating the gender gap on Wikipedia. In 2014, I got a hold of the survey that said only one out of 10 editors is a woman, and it was hard to believe. I started looking into how that impacted content, and I found out that only 12% of biographies on Spanish Wikipedia were about women.

We can summarize the causes in one word: “patriarchy.” As women, we don’t always have the free time to volunteer; we often work a double shift taking on caregiving responsibilities; and there is a lack of confidence when we start a new activity (imposter syndrome). Among others, these external factors add up to internal factors on Wikipedia, where some men have taken it upon themselves to make us feel that we are not welcome. We are targets of harassment, mansplaining, and ridicule. 

“Editatona is the feminist response for combating the gender gap on Wikipedia.”

I believe that editatonas will continue to be held in many countries, following the symbolism that Editatona has earned: to be the model for activities that reduce the gender gap on Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects.

I dream that Editatona will evolve into another initiative that does not have the state of emergency as a starting point. I dream that one day we will be able to say “we accomplished it” or something similar. I think that everyone who came before us in the struggle for our rights once felt the same way.”

Q: What gives you the most hope for your work to close the gender gap on Wikipedia?

“To see the sparkle in women’s eyes when they publish their first article on Wikipedia, then see the courage and stubbornness if the article is deleted; how they show it off on their networks and tell their friends, amazed, how they are making other exceptional women visible on the internet’s leading site.”

Q: What motivates you to contribute to Wikimedia projects?

“In addition to contributing to a greater common good, what motivates me most is that there is so much more to write. As I make new alliances with organizations, institutions, schools, and collectives in my country to improve the quality of Wikipedia, I generate dialogues, points of view, and perspectives that make me notice that, despite the millions of Wikimedia projects, they are not recorded in them. 

At every opportunity, the story of an incredible woman whose trajectory has been overturned by the patriarchy jumps onto my edit list, so it renews my energy to keep doing this. I stay motivated even if not everything goes well and the attitudes of other male Wikipedians are not appropriate, although sometimes after organizing events and all that entails, there are still people in 2021 who, despite the explicit and clear rules of the projects, still think of Wikimedia projects that do not correspond to the world we live in.

“At every opportunity, the story of an incredible woman whose trajectory has been overturned by the patriarchy jumps onto my edit list, so it renews my energy to keep doing this.”

And as always, it fills me with pride when I talk to someone and with astonishment they ask me “Do you really write Wikipedia?” I am proud to write an encyclopedia, although of course, I always clarify that it is only a small grain of sand on the beach, but yes.”

Q: What is one thing you wish everyone knew about Wikimedia projects?

“I want everyone to know that Wikimedia projects are built by people who selflessly want to share what they know with others. There is no company, party, or anything that is behind it, that it is a global community that builds everything for the use and enjoyment of everyone.”

Congratulations, Carmen! 

About the 2021 Wikimedian of the Year Awards

The Wikimedian of the Year is an annual award that honours contributors to Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia editors, to highlight major achievements within the Wikimedia movement in the previous year. The tradition dates back to 2011 and has evolved since then in dynamic ways to welcome and celebrate Wikimedians from different backgrounds and experiences. This year’s celebration is bigger and more inclusive than ever before, recognizing seven exceptional contributors to the Wikimedia movement in six categories, including Newcomer of the Year, 20th Year Honouree, Rich Media and Tech contributors, and Honourable Mentions, as well as the Wikimedian of the Year. 

*This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

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