Home Institution

University of San Francisco

Publication Date

Fall 2008

Program Name

Mali: Gender, Health, and Development


Being immersed in a Malian family for over three months has given me an opportunity to observe and experience certain dynamics of the culture not afforded to the average traveller. It was this very experience which served to inspire this project, a diversion from my original research topic of polygamy. While the textbooks focused on the compliance and submission of Malian women, each day spent immersed in the culture and my family hinted at something more. My family’s lifeline and backbone are the women who manage the household; particularly my Maman and sister. While many acknowledge that Malian women carry the brunt of the workload each day, the strength and autonomy of these same women is rarely emphasized. Each day spent immersed in the culture advanced my conviction that Malian women (both historically and currently) were constrained by a limited conceptualization of Malian women which highlighted submission and oppression. The common construction of Malian women neglected both their strength and agency within society – a disservice to the movement for the emancipation of women. Thus, I decided to further explore the situation of Malian women; the realities of their hardships, their perceptions of the feminist movement and obstacles delaying change. Through an exploration of these questions, I intend this study to project an accurate representation of the strength and autonomy of the women throughout Mali and to present possible vehicles for change within the feminist movement today.


Anthropology | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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