Putting women human rights activists on the world map

by Admin — last modified May 20, 2018 02:09 PM
Birubala Rabha may be a household name in Assam, but her crusade against the practice of witch-hunting in her State has not got the attention it deserves from the nation or the world. Barring a handful of articles in print and online publications, little has been written about her fight that spans over two decades. There is no mention of her on Wikipedia.

The article by Sarumathi K. was published in the Hindu on May 19, 2018.


Like Ms. Rabha, India has seen many women human rights activists who have taken up cudgels on behalf of the marginalised and oppressed, but their stories have remained mostly muted. “Sadly women are marginalised even in the online space. There is no mention of these brave women in the more than five-and-a-half million English entries on the Wikipedia website. In fact, less than 20% of the biographies on Wikipedia are dedicated to women, with few devoted to the important work of human rights defenders, and even fewer to women human rights defenders,” said Leah Verghese, senior campaigner and researcher, Amnesty International India.

To take stories of such women to the world, Amnesty International, Bengaluru, is working in collaboration with Wikimedia Foundation to put out profiles of women human rights defenders in the country on Wikipedia. The technical support is being extended by Centre for Internet and Society. “A few women have a brief profile; we will be updating them. For those who have none, we will create new ones,” said Ms. Verghese.

The project, called Brave: EDIT, will take shape with the help of volunteers, mostly college students from Bengaluru, who will compile and upload profiles of women human rights defenders such as Tongam Rina, Jagmati Sangwan, Manjula Pradeep, Aruna Sanghapali, Pavitri Manji and Birubala Rabha, among others. This project is being simultaneously executed in 20 other countries.

“We have created a list of 24 such women activists who have worked in the field of human rights in India. Though the list was much longer, there are some Wikipedia criteria, including notability and verifiability of the people being written about, which led us to bring the number down to 24,” said Ms. Verghese.

The volunteers have been working on the project on weekends and the profiles are likely to be available on Wikipedia in a week.

Manuja Pradeep, Dalit human rights activist from Gujarat and executive director of Navsarjan Trust, who is on the list of women being profiled, said, “The visibility on the Internet is very important for activists, especially women activists. Most of us have spent over two decades on the ground, working for the marginalised community and this entry in Wikipedia is a big recognition for our work.”

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