Dear all,

Apologies for this big delay in reporting - between work, travel and the
rest of my life, I've been in a spin.

As previously announced on this list, Sanhita, a gender resource centre in
Kolkata had offered to host a half-day session on 'Gender, Information and
Technology' to explore, understand and plan how women's studies departments
in Kolkata's colleges might create content related to 'gender/women's
studies/women' on Bengali wikipedia, for use by colleges across West Bengal
(and of course, by anyone else).

The workshop was held on 18 March at the Seagull Media Resource
Centre<http://www.seagullindia.com/samrc/facilities.html>where the
Kolkata wiki10 celebrations had been held in January - Sanhita
took on the venue rental and snack costs. Sanhita currently works with 18
women's colleges in Kolkata and West Bengal: it creates and distributing
information resources in Bengali on women/gender. It would like to
collaborate with a technological platform such as Bengali wikipedia to
further its goal.

Biswarup Ganguly, Jayanta Nath, Arnab Dutta and Rimi Chatterjee were the
wikipedians from Kolkata who led this workshop, along with Soma Sengupta of
Sanhita. I was invited along to bridge the gap between gender studies and
wikipedia. The entire workshop was conducted in Bengali; there were 30
participants - 28 women and 2 men, quite the gender reverse of other
workshops I've attended. Please see the
photos<http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Kolkata_Mar2011>that
Biswarup took to get a visual sense of this.

Each of the 30 participants used English wikipedia - only 1 knew of Bengali
wikipedia; none used it. All the participating teachers are not necessarily
intending to edit wikipedia themselves in Bengali, but are 'gatekeepers' to
students. So they were more interested in a conceptual understanding of
wikipedia during this preliminary planning session, than a hands-on editing
demo.

Given the academic nature of participants, the first question was about the
authenticity of articles. How is this established? Along with talking about
the need for references and citations and the no original
research/verifiability principles, two examples [1} [2] were shown. The talk
page on Babri Masjid [1] was also used to demonstrate one aspect of the
editing process - how authenticity is constantly challenged and
renegotiated. The page on Begum Rokeya [2] attracted considerable interest,
since she was a pioneering figure in undivided Bengal to whom this group
could relate. The lack of citations about her was brought up, and the oral
citations project [3] was cited.

In a similar vein, the following pages were also discussed in detail:
Feminism portal [4], Gender Studies category [5] and Gender Studies project
page [6] - to see if something similar could be launched in Bengali
wikipedia with those present and others who had expressed interest via
email.

Since some of those present saw themselves as advocates, we clarified that
wikipedia is not an advocacy platform, it is a knowledge platform - and
discussed NPOV etc in this context.

There were questions about how to take this knowledge to colleges in the
state without access to the internet or to computers. We discussed the
creation of offline CDs and PediaPress books, using online content.

All in all, there was great excitement around the prospect of
collaboratively creating gender-related content on Bengali wikipedia - Arnab
and Jayanta demonstrated this. Rimi spoke about how she uses wikipedia with
her students, while Biswarup did a quick demo of Commons.

All of us felt "a positive energy" (to quote Rimi), specially about the
"practical concrete questions about next steps" (Jayanta). One disability
rights activist from an NGO called Sruti had suggestions for improving said
page in Bengali wikipedia - and
Sanhita confirmed that several participants emailed back the next day with
good feedback.

Hopefully, with this optimistic start, this will now go places - and
contribute not just to Bengali wikipedia, but also to reducing the overall
gender gap. A special thanks to Jayanta, Arnab, Biswarup, Rimi, and Soma for
excellent coordination, planning, camaraderie and teamwork to make this
workshop a grand success.

Cheers
Bishakha

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babri_masjid
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begum_Rokeya
[3] http://blog.wikimedia.org/blog/2011/01/12/new-wikimedia-fellow/
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Feminism
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Gender_studies
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Gender_Studies
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