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An edit-a-thon makes the Gender Justice & the Law study available to millions of internet users

Millions of readers of Arabic language now have access to articles on “Gender Justice & the Law in the Arab Region” on Wikipedia, as UNFPA and partners finally released their 18 country reports on how existing laws reinforce gender inequalities.

Young participants at the workshop.
Photo: © UNFPA- Arab States Regional Office

Upon the release of the reports, a group of young volunteers translated their content and conclusions into Wikipedia articles during a day-long edit-a-thon, an event organized by UNFPA, the United Nations reproductive health agency, UN Women and UNDP, the United Nations Development Programme in partnership with HerStory, a youth volunteers-based initiative supported by UN Women and dedicated to closing the gender gap in digital knowledge production.

Wikipedia is the largest digital encyclopedia in the world with nearly 18 billion visitors, of which over 185 million Arabic-speaking users every month. However, only 4.2% of all articles available on Wikipedia in Arabic relate to women and gender issues. The edit-a-thon volunteers posted Wikipedia articles about each of the reports that cover eighteen Arab countries with comprehensive assessment of their laws’ alignment with gender equality principles.

Moreover, a one-day interactive workshop led by HerStory youth volunteers had participants discuss how to use knowledge products for advocacy and community outreach to promote gender-related issues.

Shefaa al-Rifai, one of the workshop participants, is co-founder of a group called Syriana which now provides social cohesion activities and training services to nearly seven thousand Syrian, Yemeni and Sudanese refugees as well as members of the Egyptian host community in Alexandria, Egypt. She stressed the importance of community outreach as part of effective advocacy for gender equality. “When we started, it was a big challenge to communicate the importance of treating our boys and girls equally. Unconsciously, in our homes, we discriminate by assigning different colors to different sexes, or when we ask a little girl to bring her brother a glass of water while never expecting him to do the same for her,” al-Rifai noted.

Now, with this training, al-Rifai is hoping to expand on Syriana’s use of digital outreach to influence more people with gender equality awareness raising initiatives.

“Gender inequality had an impact on my personal life,” said Fatma Tawfiq, a senior university student who has a job in social media marketing, “I came today because I wanted to learn how to use digital marketing tools to raise awareness on gender equality and gender justice.”

The volunteers learnt about the reports and brainstormed ways of turning their newly acquired knowledge in pushing for change in areas that are most relevant to their lives. Several participants talked about the need to create community outreach programmes to reverse social acceptance of norms and traditions that foster gender inequality. Others were more focused on building on the positive legal developments in recent years to change policies and strengthen mechanisms of enforcement. Many commented on the need to fill the legal gaps that allow high rates of gender-based violence to continue afflicting women’s lives across the region.

 “People are not always receptive of what we try to say,” said Hazem Tareq, a third year university student, “there are people around us who see gender roles are strictly separate from each other and that women should not overstep their limits. They say things like: women should stay at home, or in the kitchen. The social acceptance of such ideas is a big challenge.”

About the reports:

Gender Justice &the Law in the Arab Region is a study on Gender Justice and the Law which provides a systematic review of the laws in 18 countries of the Arab states region to assess whether they promote or impede equality between women and men and provide protection against gender-based violence. The countries included in the study are: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, State of Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. Collectively, this study refers to these countries as the Arab states region. Read the reports here.

Watch a video summary of the workshop: