Dagbani Wikimedians User Group: Digitizing Mabia languages in 2022 [Article]

On December 31, 2022, the Dagbani Wikimedians User Group organized an end-of-year get-together and award ceremony for its members to mark the end of a successful year.

This get-together hosted members from the four communities working within the user group, namely the Gurene, Moore, Kusaal, and Dagaare communities.

The event was mainly organized for members of these communities to get to know each other, learn from each other, and also celebrate their achievements for the year 2023.

Partner organizations were appreciated for their contribution to the development of Mabia languages on Wikipedia.

The most outstanding achievement for our community is the Wikipedia tele-education program we piloted on Sagani TV dubbed the Dagbani Wikipedia Saha to wit, ‘time with the Dagbani Wikipedia’.

Sagani TV, a local TV station in Tamale was recognized for its continuous support in covering the group’s events and projects, including its flagship TV program known as the Dagbani Wikipedia Saha.

This program has helped us reach more people in Ghana and we’ve been able to recruit more Wikipedia editors and volunteers. Also, in 2022, We have been able to incubate 2 more language wikis, the Dagaare and the Kusaal language Wikipedias.

“For every organization, no matter how long you work, there is a need to spend some time to relax, celebrate, and refresh your minds in order to have a sound mind to continue working. It is also an opportunity for us to discuss our challenges and how we can work together to solve them.” Sadik added.

Below are some of the projects they have worked on in 2022:

  • Wiki loves monuments in Ghana. 2020 in Ghana
  • Wikidata lexicographical data translation into Dagbani
  • Wikimania 2022
  • Wikidata’s 10th Birthday Celebration

According to the Executive Director, Sadik Shahadu, one of their top priorities as an organization is to write about all the parliamentarians from 1957 to date (2nd, 3rd, 4th, up to the 8th parliament).

He stated in his speech that, “our vision is to organize all of the Mole Dagbani languages on the internet. We have also noticed that our local languages are dying off. We hardly get information on our language on the internet, so there is a need to put things together on the internet. For instance, we have other languages on the internet, but we have little to find out about Dagbani. According to UNESCO, languages are dying off day in and day out, and the reason is that we are not preserving our languages, especially by putting them on the internet.”

Therefore, he rallied all sister communities; Gurune, Moore, Kusaal, and Dagaare, because these languages are interconnected.

Awards were given to notable editors and volunteers in the various communities for their efforts in digitizing the language. This serves as an avenue to motivate the award winners so that they continue to do better as time progresses.

To encourage the volunteers to contribute more, awards were presented in the form of tablets, smartphones, and shopping vouchers. These devices, he believes, will help them contribute more to Wikipedia and other sister projects. There were prizes for both the top male and female contributors overall, as well as prizes for both new male and female contributors.

The Executive Director also took the chance to encourage, motivate, and thank all the volunteers for their unwavering support of the user group and for digitizing our languages so that the next generation can learn about them easily and in an interesting way on the internet.

He explained that “the indigenous languages and cultures in Ghana are slowly losing their significance. Even in our education system, these languages are not well supported and students are losing interest in studying them. Also, there’s very little information available online in our local languages making it very difficult to preserve. As a language community, we want help to revitalize these languages using Wikipedia and its sister projects. We want to encourage people to not only speak but contribute to writing content on Wikipedia in their own languages.”

In 2023, he added that “we hope to create more innovative programs to increase the quality and quantity of articles on the various language wikis we are currently supporting. We hope to get the Gurene and the Moore Wikipedia incubators approved by the Wikimedia language committee as official language wikis in Ghana.”

About Dagbani Wikimedians User Group

The Mole-Dagbani languages are a large group of near mutually intelligible dialects spoken across countries in West Africa. The largest of these languages are Mòoré; spoken by more than 5 million people in Burkina Faso, and Dagbani; a lingua franca in the northern half of Ghana spoken by some 3 million people including 2 million indigenous speakers. Among the smaller languages in this family tree is Notre, mainly spoken in Benin.