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Tried Googling 'Hima Das'? Meet The People Who Are Collating Missing Information on Women Athletes

"There are so many women athletes to cover - and they exist, and people want to know about them - but the information isn't put together."

Raka Mukherjee | News18.com@RakaMukherjeee

Updated:August 27, 2018, 1:45 PM IST
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Tried Googling 'Hima Das'? Meet The People Who Are Collating Missing Information on Women Athletes
"There are so many women athletes to cover - and they exist, and people want to know about them - but the information isn't put together."
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Hima Das has been all over the news recently, for breaking the national record at the Asian Games - but how much do you actually know about her?

The news of the 18-year-old girl from Assam who broke the national record and won silver led the country to Google who she was.

However, when you Google her name, the first source you click on - Wikipedia, has very limited information. And this is not limited to just Hima Das, but happens to be the general theme for most women athletes from India in the Asian Games itself - a lot of the women do not have Wiki pages, or if and when they do, those pages are very limited - known as 'stub' pages.

However, a small group of people in New Delhi are trying to change that. A non-profit organization called Feminism in India held one of their regular events, called Edit-a-thon, where they edit Wiki pages of people they feel are underrepresented and have very limited information about them available online. The last one, held on Saturday, focused on the Indian female athletes at the Asian Games.

"The point is to collate information for these athletes that already exist, but aren't sourced together in one place," said Japleen Pasricha, who is the founder for Feminism in India, and organized the event. The idea for Edit-a-thon came to Japleen from when she attended other edit-a-thons, and figured she could recreate it for Feminism in India itself.

Since Wikipedia is a crowd-sourced platform, one has to find the sources from news articles to include in the edit. "Usually there is enough information from features and interviews on these athletes, but they are not on Wikipedia, because nobody has bothered putting the information there," Pasricha said.

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A self-survey conducted by Wikimedia Foundation found that 90% of the editors on Wikipedia were male, while only 9% were women. This could explain the gender bias that exists in the representation of women on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia has slightly strict rules about what source it holds credible, so no social media and no speculation pieces work. For women athletes who have no pages what-so-ever and very little media coverage, finding information can get a little more difficult.

One of the participants called Aditi, a 25-year-old who does research for a social enterprise and was editing for the second time, found that often, there are "player profiles" that exist. "There are usually player profiles that exist on the respective sports association page, which lists things like all the achievements they've had in sports so far - including most events they have played at, and their personal best achievements," she said.

However, none of that information ever finds its way onto Wikipedia pages. Usually, their pages start and end with whatever major achievement that brought them to media spotlight.

There is no early life and no history about them. Tanvika, a 21-year-old student at Delhi University, noticed that this section is usually missing - even when it is sometimes defining to the character. Tanvika who was editing a page on a young tennis player, Karman Kaur Thandi found that she came from a financially deficit situation - and in cases of a spot like tennis where extensive and expensive coaching is required, Tanvika felt it was significant to include - as it was not only relevant to defining her life, but also her sport. "But usually, none of this is on her Wikipedia page." Karman's Wikipedia page is more a list of the competitions she's taken part in more than actually telling the reader anything about her.

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Hima Das's Hindi Wikipedia page simply has two paragraphs. Keshav, who is a resident of Bhopal was trying to fix that. It was Keshav's first time at an Edit-a-thon, and he dropped by after seeing the invite on his Whatsapp, and he was glad he was there.

"There are so many women athletes to cover - and they exist, and people want to know about them - but the information isn't put together," Japleen said.

Usually, Japleen starts by making a list - of people who have no or 'stub' pages and then organizes the event to have people edit those pages. This particular edit-a-thon was specifically for women athletes keeping in context the Asian Games, and involved seven people editing.

"We try to keep the groups small - because a lot of people are editing for just the first time. And since Wikipedia is strict about their rules, we don't want admins taking the pages down simply based on misinformation. We want the pages to stay up," she adds.

Edit-a-thon has been a recurring event that is usually hosted once a month for the last two years. For this particular edit-a-thon held at the Twitter India office, each participant tried to edit at least two people on the list - to put more information about the athletes we see on screen, but know nearly nothing about.
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