Revealing the stories of women hidden from history

As a 14-year-old during the Second World War, Panee Sirivejjabhandu risked her life by smuggling medicine and contraband to war prisoners in camps along the Kwai River. Her father, Boonpong, is widely recognized for saving thousands of prisoners’ lives during the war; his teenage daughter’s role, however, has been nearly elided from history.

Panee’s extraordinary story, which is so little known inside her own country, is just one example of historical narratives ignoring the lives and accomplishments of women. In fields ranging from philosophy and journalism to education and the sciences, women’s influential experiences and contributions have shaped our societies, and yet his-story – the past related from a dominant male view – is what is taught to children in schools and visible online and in the media. This distorts most people’s view of the world and their commitment to gender equality and sustainable development.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2019, 30 volunteers took part in the first edit-a-thon Wiki4Women organized in Bangkok by UNESCO.

‘In every form of the media – online, print and broadcast – women make up only one in five experts featured or quoted’ highlighted Ms Maki Hayashikawa, the UNESCO representative in her opening remarks. In Thailand, there is a striking gap between the contributions that women make to society and the economy and their representation in the digital sphere and media. The country has one of the highest percentages of women scientists: 53% according to a 2017 UNESCO report. Thailand is also one of six countries where as many women start businesses as men. But only one out of four experts interviewed is a woman*.  And globally, only one in five biographies published on Wikipedia is about a woman.

The objective of the Wiki4Women organized today was to shed the light on the extraordinary stories of women whose contributions have shaped our societies but whose stories are often overlooked – and sometimes suppressed from history.

Mentored by volunteers from the Wikimedians in Thailand User Group, participants published or translated over 20 biographies of women on Wikipedia.

Wiki4Women is a world contributory movement initiated by UNESCO to increase the profiles of women who have excelled in the fields ranging from arts and journalism to education and the sciences on Wikipedia. This year the event took place in several cities starting from Almaty, Bangkok, New Delhi, Cairo, Reykjavik, Lima and Buenos Aires along with UNESCO Paris Headquarters.

This first Wiki4Women in Bangkok was supported by the UNESCO ‘Women Make the News Thailand’ project.

To find out more on the ‘Women Make the News Thailand’ project, please visit here.



* Gender equality study conducted by Thai PBS in 2014