Today, Tunisian free knowledge advocate Emna Mizouni was named the 2019 Wikimedian of the Year. The award was given in recognition of her inspiring leadership within the global Wikimedia movement, especially within Arab and African communities, and for her tireless work in raising awareness of Tunisia’s extensive history and culture.
Emna is a life-long resident of Tunis, Tunisia’s capital and largest city. Historically, Tunis’ strategic position between the western and eastern Mediterranean Seas led to it being the capital of the Carthaginian Empire, a nation whose settlements dotted the coastline from Spain to Northern Africa and Corsica. It was destroyed in 164 BCE, but rose again under the Umayyad Caliphate, during which much of the old town that exists today was constructed.
Centuries later, Emna traveled around her country in the wake of the Arab Spring and found that there was a startling lack of knowledge about this extensive history. To combat this, Emna joined with several others to found Carthagina, a non-governmental organization, in 2013. “Through it, we aim to contribute to preserving, protecting, and promoting our national heritage and history for current and future generations,” Emna says.
With goals like that, Wikimedia was a natural partner for the Carthagina team. Emna began contributing in 2013 with that year’s Wiki Loves Monuments, an international photography competition that focuses on the cultural infrastructure previous generations have bequeathed to us. She added some of her own photos and asked others to donate theirs.
Over the next few years, Emna fell farther and farther into the rabbit hole that is the Wikimedia movement—the global community of people and organizations which help further our shared vision. With her background in communications and marketing, she found herself drawn to the increasingly complex work that was required behind the scenes, out of the public eye.
“I believe in the concept of the invisible leadership,” she told me. “Every one of us in this world has the potential to help boost the work of the powerful Wikimedia community. I did no different by using my potential and skills to do offline work.”
These roles included helping organize several major conferences, including the first-ever WikiArabia conference, held by and for volunteer members of the Arabic Wikipedia in 2015; and the second edition of the same conference, held in 2017 in Cairo; and co-chairing Wikimania 2018’s program committee, which oversaw and organized all of the keynotes, sessions, and gatherings of the five-day conference. She also joined the Affiliations Committee in 2016 and became its vice-chair in 2018. The committee, comprised of a couple dozen voting members and non-voting advisers, manages the formal affiliations process for organizations in the Wikimedia movement by making recommendations to the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
Today, Emna has continued her work in putting on edit-a-thons, workshops, and other in-person Wikimedia events in and around Tunisia. She remains the president of Carthagina and has expanded upon its vision to found Digital Citizenship, a non-profit organization that is addressing digital literacy and online safety for marginalized groups and the media.
“I will be discovering new areas other than culture and history where I could contribute,” she says, “including areas where we lack content and resources.”
Ed Erhart, Senior Editorial Associate, Communications
The annual Wikimedian of the Year award is presented by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales at Wikimania, the conference that celebrates Wikipedia, the Wikimedia projects, and the volunteers who contribute to them. This year, he was joined on stage at the closing ceremony of Wikimania 2019 by Farhad Fatkullin, the 2018 Wikimedian of the Year.