By Sandra Aceng
Wiki4Refugees editathon in Rhino Camp, Ocea Zone
Rhino camp is a refugee settlement in Arua district that opened in 1980 and is home to many refugees, many of them from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, and Kenya. It is the second-largest refugee settlement in the Northern region of Uganda that covers the districts of Terego and Madi’okollo after Bidi Bidi refugee camp. The camp grew in the wake of the South Sudanese civil war. In August 2017, “the settlement was expanded with the establishment of the Omugo zone extension area,” according to the Uganda Refugee Response Monitoring Settlement Fact Sheet: Rhino Camp (January 2018). In 2018, the refugee settlement had more than 116,000 refugees, the majority of whom were South Sudanese. It has received many new refugees since then.
The camp Refugee settlement has seven zones – Ofua Zone, Omugo Zone, Ocea Zone, Odobu Zone, Siripi Zone, Tika Zone and Eden Zone. The refugee settlement is not only home to refugees but also to many vulnerable and/or marginalized groups of people such as the elderly orphans, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), widows and single mothers. A number of languages are spoken in the camp given the different ancestries of the refugees. English, however, is the most widely used.
The camp receives assistance from numerous non-governmental organizations and 20 community-based organizations. Several developmental organizations, companies and individuals have set up schools, community organizations, health centers, community learning centers, and brought services like electricity and water, to support the community and guarantee its growth and the well being of those who live in it.
Many of these organisations have so much information about refugees which other stakeholders and researchers have either limited or completely no access to. Most of this information is not available on Wikipedia. The refugees are better positioned to document this information and yet they lack the skills required to edit and create articles on Wikipedia. Much as vulnerable groups that include refugees face many challenges, they have the potential for creativity and innovation that, if documented, can inspire and empower their communities.
In February, 2020, Platform Africa Uganda, a Non-Profit Community Based Organization Registered with the Arua Local Government Directorate of community services located in Ocea Zone, in partnership with the Wikimedia community User Group Uganda and and Community Development Centre (CDC), came together as implementing partners, and organized a two days’ #Wiki4Refugees Edit-a-thon in Ocea Zone, Rhino settlement, to train the refugee community on how to create and improve articles on Wikipedia. Participants were trained on how to create WikiData items on Wikipedia and how to upload images, and videos on Wikimedia commons. The event which took place between February 22 and 23, 2020, was intended to increase access to credible up-to-date information on refugees in Rhino Camp, on Wikipedia.
Geoffrey Kateregga, a member of the Wikimedia Community User Group Uganda, who was also the lead facilitator during the two days’ training said that the two days’ program was divided into three parts which included;
- Intensive training: Participants were introduced to key skills and tools on how to update/ edit and add articles to Wikipedia for the event.
- Edit-a-thon – This was on the second day and was aimed at improving stub articles on Wikipedia and creating new entries about critical topics, underrepresented groups, initiatives and putting up-to-date figures about refugees, etc.
- Creating content for upload on Wikimedia Commons including videos, audios and videos to document the life of refugees in Uganda.
On day two of the training, most of the participants who created Wikipedia articles and Wikidata items on refugee settlements in Rhino camp also went for a photo hunt and images were uploaded on Wikimedia commons.
At the end of the two days’ #Wiki4Refugees edit-a-thon, the team created five articles, edited 16, made 122 total edits, added 25 references, made 8 uploads to commons. 14 editors participated and contributed to the event. Click event dashboard for details: https://outreachdashboard.wmflabs.org/courses/Wikimedia_Community_User_Group_Uganda/Wiki4Refugees_Uganda_(February_2020)
Participants from the Rhino refugee settlement also continued to participate in different Wikimedia Community User group projects such as Wiki Loves Africa and WikiGap editathon (Wiki Loves Women) competition, among others.
Lomora Ronald, the program manager of Platform Africa, Uganda and a refugee at Rhino camp participated in the WikiGap competition in the months of March and April, 2020 and took the fourth position with about seven articles.
This event not only improved the skills of the participants, but it also offered an opportunity for the participants to develop their capacity, improve access to enormous accurate information about refugees and organizations to people within the settlement and beyond.
We all might know that information plays an important role in our day to day life – It builds well-informed communities while facilitating research and enabling aid workers, students and other stakeholders pinpoint existent statistics, languages, demographics, and issues of concern in their response and reports, however, despite the huge influx of refugees to Uganda, the representation of refugees on sites like Wikipedia is very inadequate.
Rhino camp had only a two-liner stub article on Wikipedia yet there is immense data pertaining to the hosting community, innovative initiatives working with refugees, the progressive Uganda refugee act 2006 and how it supports refugees, and gaps in the refugee camp that could be collectively improved.
Wikipedia is not only the most trusted, open and collaborative knowledge base but also the tenth most visited site in the world. With the #Wiki4Refugees program, it brought together different stakeholders from the refugee camp to collaboratively co-create information about Rhino Camp refugee settlement and feed it as entries to Wikipedia.
After the two days’ activity, which was attended by empowered community based organizations, civil society organizations and other organizations, they were able to gain knowledge about editing content online about Rhino Camp. This created an informed community of organizations to update information about Rhino Camp and other Wikipedia initiatives.