Graduation Year

Spring 2013

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Politics and International Relations

Second Department

French Studies

Reader 1

Pierre Englebert

Reader 2

Marie-Denise Shelton

Reader 3

David Andrews

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2013 Refilwe M. Moahi


This research begins to explore what political tools are necessary to elevate women’s position in society by transforming legislation. Women in Francophone West Africa do not enjoy certain basic rights and there is need to improve their status. The promotion and appointment of women to the position of prime minister, Mame Madior Boyé in Senegal in 2001 and Mariam Kaidama Cissé Sidibé in Mali in 2011, gives us hope that women-friendly agendas will be given priority. I pose the question: Did the appointment of these two women to the heads of their respective governments improve the status of women and their political representation in West Africa? There is existing research that suggests that more women in government increases the visibility of women’s issues. I argue that simply having women in positions of power is not sufficient; participation in informal politics and civil society is imperative. These women have to go into the position with a commitment to women’s issues and a willingness to work with the already existent networks of women’s associations dedicated to furthering women’s rights. I study the successful passage of a new woman-friendly constitution in Senegal. In particular, I look at each participant’s role in making this happen, the associations who pushed for reforms for many years, the reformist president Wade, and Boyé who was a founding member of one of the central women’s associations, the Association of Senegalese Female Legal Practitioners. I compare this with the unsuccessful signing of new family code in Mali. I discuss the disinterest and indecisiveness of the president and Sidibé, as well as the influence of the strong opposition from the conservative High Islamic Council. There are also institutional barriers to change, namely the pluralist legal system of customary law, Islamic law, and state law. Finally, I discuss other possible reasons for the differences in these two countries’ results, such as Senegal’s longer history of democracy and general acceptance of modernity and women’s rights.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.