Skip to content

Her Story: Becoming an Advocate for Open


Women’s Day” by Elsa Martino, licensed CC BY-NC-SA.

For over 40 years, millions across the globe have collectively celebrated the achievements, histories, ideas, and contributions of women on March 8 and increasingly, throughout March for Women’s History Month using #HerStory and #BecauseOfHerStory. This year, we wanted to do something special to celebrate this annual event, so we reached out to several members of the Creative Commons Global Network and the broader open community to ask them to share their personal stories, ideas, and insights by responding to five questions. The result is this five-part blog series called, “Her Story.” Throughout this series, we’ll also be highlighting the work of women artists who submitted pieces to Fine Acts’ Reimagining Human Rights challenge. 

Our hope is that these conversations will inspire you to reflect on your own stories and ideas. We also hope it will motivate you to think about how you can help make open sharing more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. Put simply, we want to make sharing better—to do that, we need your help.

In part one of this series, participants responded to the following question: What motivated you to join the open movement and become an advocate for open access to knowledge and culture?

J’ai rejoint le mouvement libre il y a 19 ans, lorsque j’ai découvert l’encyclopédie Wikipédia. Je n’avais pas la moindre idée du fait que je rejoignais le mouvement libre ! Je n’en avais en fait jamais entendu parler. Wikipedia m’a séduite par sa vision, l’accès à la connaissance au plus grand nombre, ainsi que par les valeurs que professent sa communauté, en particulier le fait que tout le monde puisse y participer et le positionnement éditorial ferme que nous appelons “la neutralité de point de vue”. Mais tout comme Mr Jourdain faisait de la prose sans le savoir, je faisais la promotion du mouvement libre sans le savoir. Par exemple, je n’ai commencé à vraiment comprendre les particularités des “licence libre” qu’au bout de 2 ans de contribution. 

EN: I joined the free movement 19 years ago when I discovered the Wikipedia encyclopedia. I had no idea that I was joining the free movement! I had never actually heard of it. Wikipedia seduced me with its vision, access to knowledge to as many people as possible, as well as the values ​​professed by its community. In particular, I like the fact that everyone can participate and the firm editorial positioning that we call “point of view neutrality.” But, just as Mr Jourdain was doing prose without knowing it, I was promoting the open movement without knowing it. For example, I only started to really understand the specifics of “open licenses” after two years of contribution.

My long time friend Simeon Oriko encouraged me to find a way of sharing the knowledge and skills I had accrued with students from less-fortunate backgrounds here in Kenya and who aspired to the same things in life as I did. While building on this work, I realized that a lot of the content we consume erases the work done by women—especially Black women—and did not encourage learners to create projects that would preserve their communities’ histories, culture, and knowledge.

I joined the open movement a long time ago. Although I can’t remember my initial motivation, what keeps me in it is the public good. It doesn’t matter which area of “open” that you work in or advocate for, doing something good for the public and acting like it are the most rewarding aspects. Acting collectively for the public good motivates me to do more. 

Me motiva que todas las personas del mundo puedan acceder al conocimiento y la cultura para tomar las mejores decisiones en su proyecto de vida, sobre todo a quienes menos acceso tienen, y no solo unas cuantas personas privilegiadas.

EN: That all people in the world can access knowledge and culture to make the best decisions in their life—especially for those who have less access, not just a few privileged people.

I was first introduced to the open movement when working in the arts and culture scene in Cape Town. It just felt right. It encapsulated all the ideals I hadn’t yet given a voice to: sharing, collaboration, equity, openness, transparency. These were all incorporated within the movement and were easy to contribute and benefit from. My main contribution has been to activate, drive and support the WikiAfrica movement across the African continent, ensuring that Africa’s voices, cultures, and knowledge were given an equal opportunity within the Wikimedia movement. So, I guess it was a combination of personal beliefs and the passion to ensure the voices, cultures, and knowledge of Africa were heard—not only globally, but more importantly by those in Africa. This passion led to Wiki Loves Africa, Wiki Loves Women and multiple education projects and offline tools through Wiki In Africa.

I was a law student at the University of São Paulo when I first learned about Creative Commons in 2009. I was thrilled! I was interested in cultural policies, had begun studying copyright law on my own and was developing a critical perspective. I remember quite well how it felt to find that there were people all around the world actually using the law to produce very concrete, transforming results in access to culture and knowledge.

The thrill never left me. I became more interested and wrote my master’s dissertation about Free Software and Creative Commons at the University of São Paulo. When I was finished in 2012, I had the chance to join the team that then represented CC Brazil—the Center for Technology and Society at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation. I jumped right in, started joining CC international meetings, developed several collaborations, and made good friends in the community. Over the years, my interest only grew for the other subjects CC introduced me to, including internet policy and human rights. Both of which I currently work on.

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by limited access to knowledge goods and resources. Finances are traditionally in the hands of men in our society. There are more men than women on the internet. The inability to access resources for women and girls intersects with the inability to access knowledge and culture outside their traditional environment. The desire to bring knowledge goods closer to women who cannot otherwise afford them when copyrighted spurred me to become an advocate for open access to knowledge and culture in Uganda and Africa as a whole.

? There’s more! You can now read the next part of our “Her Story” blog series here. Part three, four, and five will be published Monday mornings (EST) throughout the month of March. Stay tuned!

Posted 08 March 2021