In 1960, Mali claimed its national independence. However, since 2011, the country has seen increasing violent conflicts between non-state entities, the government, and foreign forces. Throughout, Malian women have stepped into a role as agents of political and social change. This project works to preserve thousands of written works and photographs in possession of a generation of Malian women who contributed to anti-colonial activism in the 1950’s, as well as feminist social reform in the following decades—ranging from socialist economic reform targeting women in agriculture, to gender rights to contraceptives and to divorce.
A team based in the Centre National d'Information et de Documentation sur la Femme et l'Enfant (CNDIFE) of Mali will connect with some of these Malian women. CNDIFE will work to catalogue and digitize some of their personal collections, which face deterioration, inadequate storage conditions, and destruction amongst socio-political unrest.
The archival material contains thousands of papers and photographs that depict women, gender-related issues, work life, and civil society in Mali from 1950 to 2000. The documents are owned by elderly women from Bamako and make up the majority of this collection. Such works include handwritten meeting minutes, correspondence with women and civil society organizations from around the world, and outreach to rural women. The photographic portion of this collection depicts a rich list of subjects. For example, some pictures from 1960 depict Malian griots (praise singers) who went on tour to announce independence.
Black women have continually been excluded or dismissed from historical narratives around decolonization and political participation. By introducing the unrecognized perspectives of Malian women into this realm, we can explore their great contributions to modern African history. These collections reveal their dedication to social justice and human rights as well as their critical role in politics, civil society, and transnational movements.