Les sans pagEs Benin is a project born in 2020, resulting from a collaboration with Wikimedia Benin under the leadership of Adoscam, a very active Wikimedian and contributor from Benin. The project aims to contribute to reducing the gender gap and biases in Benin in particular and in Africa in general, by organizing online and face-to-face training workshops.
In three years, amazing results have been achieved to make women and African women’s history present on Wikipedia in French.
How do the sans pagEs work in Benin ?
Members of sans pagEs Benin create and improve pages on women and women’s issues in Africa and Benin. At the start of the initiative, a project page was set up to document all workshops and work lists, listing Beninese women missing from Wikipedia in French, and topics of importance to women and the history of women and feminism in Benin.
The goal is also to put forward women contributors and to encourage them to train themselves to contribute, and in turn to lead workshops. The challenge is to be able to sustain the actions and to find relevant sources in the eyes of French Wikipedia contributors, and this is not always easy!
The group has benefited from the investment of the tireless Adoscam and his colleague Fawaz.tairou. Adoscam even appeared on the national television in Benin to promote their actions and the Benin sans pagEs also benefited from media coverage.
Results: 100 articles and 50 contributors in one year!
- More than 100 topics related to Beninese and African women in general created and improved,
- More than 50 Beninese women have been introduced to contributing to Wikipedia and sensitized to gender gap issues.
- A female member of the group has been elected as board member of the association Les sans pagEs since July 2022.
Testimony of Aduni Lavani, member of the board of the sans pagEs
I didn’t know about the gender gap on Wikipedia or about sans pagEs when one day I saw a poster announcing an initiative for women to contribute on Wikipedia in honor of March 8, 2022 International Women’s Rights Day and which mentioned the gender gap on Wikipedia. I decided to create an account before going to the training. I followed the Wikipedia step-by-step training and ended up participating in the Quinzaine des autrices francophones des sans pagEs that was going on. I managed to translate a first article from English to French about Tomi Adeyemi, a Nigerian-American science fiction novelist. She said she wanted to write a fantasy novel set in West Africa so that « a little black girl [could] pick up my book one day and see herself as the star… I want her to know that she is beautiful and that she matters and she can have a crazy, magical adventure even if some ignorant part of the world tells her she can never be Hermione Granger ».
It was my first article and I was very proud! I then followed the trainings and got hooked. During the trainings given by Adoscam, I learned more about the sans pagEs project and then I attended several online sessions, including the wikimidi. There I learned how to improve my style and also some technical tricks, like how to format a bibliography using the citebook template that can be added easily using the source tab, then just removing the <ref>… </ref> tags surrounding the template in the wikicode. I know how to fetch an author’s book list and secondary sources on Worldcat. I also learned a lot by watching how others responded to articles I created.
The article I am most proud of and that made me learn a lot about the legislation in my country is Abortion in Benin (in French, the English version is still to be improved). I did not create it, but I improved it a lot, and I learned a lot by writing about this important subject that concerns the lives of women in my country. Since October 2021, a pregnant woman can legally request a voluntary interruption of pregnancy in Benin, a rare situation in Africa.
As I was motivated and a quick learner, Adoscam proposed me to take over the training of the Benin sans pagEs. I presented myself as a candidate to the board election of the sans pagEs in summer 2022, and I was elected! Afterwards, I had the chance to participate in the French Wikiconvention, where I met many other African people contributing to Wikimedia projects, and where Natacha Rault, the director of the sans pagEs, proposed me to supervise all future LSP projects in Africa.
A model for Africa?
The originality of the Beninese initiative is that it is carried out locally and aims to increase the skills of local female contributors. The initiative has been very effective with 50 contributors trained (an absolute record for our project!), and one of them was able to come to France to participate in the Wikiconvention Francophone thanks to the mentoring provided by Adoscam and the team of the sans pagEs project. Today, several groups of Afro-descendants have expressed their desire to replicate the experience and can benefit from the expertise of the Benin group:
We hope to see all of these people again during the Francophone Contribution Month, which is part of the second edition of the Quinzaine des autrices francophones, an initiative that we carry out every year to make visible Francophone women authors from outside of France.
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