(first published on Wiki Loves Women blog space)
The Focus Group coaching program is practical, action-oriented, mentored and is entirely remote. It provides skills and transfers knowledge that supports each member as a community leader as they create gender-equity programs to support the growth of their respective Wikimedia and Open movements. Together, the Focus Group shares, collaborate on, and workshops ideas, skills, and best practices. Experienced Wikimedians will guide and mentor each member as they prepare for and gather the resources and skills to implement gender-equity programs within their communities. The Focus Group will be extended to more individuals in 2022 so that these skills can be aggregated across the region.
Training through action
The Focus Group is the latest model in Wiki Loves Women’s quest to encourage action to counter the lack of representation of Africa’s women, especially via online platforms such as Wikipedia (or Wikiquote). The first goal of the Focus Group members is to raise awareness by organising local community participation in the #SheSaid drive. #SheSaid began as an online drive in 2020 to improve the visibility of female leaders by creating new or improving already existing Wikiquote entries. It ensures that women’s voices heard. The #SheSaid 2021 will take place from October 2021.
The following key activities empowers the Focus Group members to support their respective communities through:
- Coached training of individuals,
- Peer-to-peer support through discussion, both formally and ad-hoc on a dedicated Telegram channel,
- Participation in the train-the-trainer MOOC a program designed to build gender-equity program within the Wikimedia communities,
- Informal monthly meetings to discuss issues, share skills and workshop ideas, and
- Monthly focus topics ranging from gender equity in the open movement to leadership skills, partnership development, etc
The gender-equity space has many important and contentious issues. The Focus Group is not intending to unpack these issues. Instead, its focus is on transferring vital skills – digital, technical, research, writing, and leadership – to women and men. By doing so they can access neutral information to make up their own minds within their cultural specificity.
Wiki Loves Women is an initiative of Wiki In Africa. Isla Haddow-Flood and Florence Devouard created the project in 2015 with the support of the Goethe-Institut. It has since received the support of the Wikimedia Foundation and up to 2020 has been operating in 8 countries through local Wikimedia volunteers and usergroups in partnership with 78 civil society organisations. The Focus Group coaching programme is the logical extension of these initiatives.