WikiGap Malaysia 2023: Empowering women in indigenous languages

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WikiGap in Malaysia has entered its third year in 2023 starting from 2021 via Zoom and 2022 physically in the Kuala Lumpur Library. This year’s edition was special as it was held in four districts all over Malaysia covering four indigenous languages which were Malay, Bajau Sama, Kadazandusun and Semai. These four series of events were successful in collaboration with the Embassy of Sweden in Kuala Lumpur and local co-organisers for each series.

The view of the UKM WikiGap event from the organiser’s view.
WikiGap Malaysia 2023 edit-a-thon in the National University of Malaysia (Zahirulnukman, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

WikiGap Malaysia 2023 started off on International Women’s Day in the National University of Malaysia (UKM) focusing on Malay Wikipedia, the national language of Malaysia. The gender gap in Malay Wikipedia is quite concerning which is only 19.74% women articles written in the language edition. Malay Wikipedians volunteered in organising the event with the help of the co-organiser, Tun Fatimah Hashim Women’s Leadership Centre (PKWTFH). Most of the participants were lecturers and students who were first-timers in editing Wikipedia. Having academic background, they saw some similarities when writing academic articles and Wikipedia articles, which is citation from reliable sources. Some of the lecturers even told us that they now know what to do during retirement which is editing Wikipedia. The co-organiser has been discussing with the user group to organise more events to empower women academicians in Malaysia.

WikiGap button badges and a tablet showing the WikiGap background.
WikiGap button badges and the Embassy’s tote bags were given to participants (Syafiq.y, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The next week, three series of WikiGap events were held in three districts and three indigenous languages. These languages, however, do not have their own Wikipedia yet. Hence, these three events focused on Wikimedia Incubator. The Bajau Sama community, the second largest indigenous community in Sabah, Borneo wrote many prominent Malaysian women articles in the University College Sabah Foundation (UCSF), Kota Kinabalu, despite having the least participants compared to the other three series. The Bajau Sama community has been with the user group for years since the pandemic to start the Bajau Sama Wikipedia through the Bajau Sama Language and Culture Association (BSBB). They aim to release the language from Incubator by the end of the year in their annual cultural festival.

A female lecturer learning how to edit Wikipedia from a Wikimedian volunteer.
Lecturer guided by a Wikimedian volunteer on how to edit Wikipedia (Syafiq.y, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The third event was part of a week-long event organised by the Institute of Education Teacher (IPG), Kent Campus. A day was given to the user group to have the lecturers and teachers-in-training write as many as women articles in the Kadazandusun language. All of the Kadazandusun Department students were given a day off from lectures just to join the WikiGap event. We were overwhelemed with many participants that filled the large lecture hall. The Kadazandusun language, the only indigenous language taught in Sabah public schools, has its Incubator since 2011 but have been long abandoned. This event broke the years-long hiatus and the participants were determined to release their indigenous language in the near future under the effort of a future wiki club.

Participants editing Wikipedia in their laptops.
Semai aboriginal teachers editing their mother’s language Wikipedia edition in Incubator (Syafiq.y, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The final event was held in an Aboriginal village in Tapah, Perak for the Semai language. The event was just held in a small village hall that could fill a medium-size classroom. The event was helped by the Bajau Sama volunteers who are familiar with editing Wikipedia in Incubator and the co-organiser Batang Padang Aborigines Welfare Association (PEROABP). It was the first time that the Semai Wikipedia in Incubator was written and now it is filled with many women articles. Some of the participants were familiar with editing from last year’s Wiktionary training with the state education department. The event was officially closed by one of the Swedish embassy staff that observe the event.

Two female participants editing Wikipedia.
Women participants editing women articles in Malay Wikipedia (Zahirulnukman, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

One common issue that we faced throughout the events was Internet connection. The Semai participants had to share their Internet data with their friends. Even one of the Wikimedian volunteers had to share Internet with the participants to train the participants. In the future, the user group would like to support these communities by providing Internet connection during edit-a-thons to ensure smooth progress of the events. Other than that, March was a school and university semester break. Hence, the user group was not able to organise the events in some schools and universities.

Group photo of WikiGap Malaysia 2023 - Tapah
Group photo with the Semai community and the Swedish embassy staff

With WikiGap Malaysia 2023 came to a close, the four edit-a-thons attracted 103 editors from all over Malaysia with 272 new woman articles created in four indigenous languages of Malaysia. Hopefully by the next edition of WikiGap next year, we could see some languages hatched from Incubator. We are looking forward to organise more WikiGap edit-a-thons for next year with the Embassy of Sweden in Kuala Lumpur and existing or new partners.

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