Aoua Keita

Aoua Keita (1912-1980) was a Malian midwife and anti-colonial activist.

Pedagogical Unit

4. A symbol of women’s political commitment

In 1975, declared by the United Nations to be International Women’s Year, Aoua Keita published her memoirs. Following the military coup of 1968, and marginalized from Malian political life as a result, she was living in exile between Congo-Brazzaville and France.

Her autobiography, which won the Grand prix littéraire d’Afrique noire a year later, is the remarkable account of the political and professional commitment of an African midwife in the colonial era.

Cover page of the autobiographical book by Aoua Keita. Paris, Présence Africaine, 1975.

The account no doubt contributed to confirm Aoua Keita as a role-model for Malian women and feminist associations, and symbol of women’s participation in the struggle for independence in French Sudan. In 1991, the Malian Association for Progress and the Defence of Women’s Rights (APDF) created a prize in her honour. Her name also adorns the pediment of a room in the Malian National Assembly. In 1999, the former headquarters of the official women’s organization of the military regime was transformed into a centre of professional learning for women, and renamed ‘The Aoua Keita Centre’. Finally, her portrait, which appears in the vast fresco of the presidential palace in Bamako retracing Mali’s political history, is the only portrait of a female figure.

Wall fresco at Koulouba (Senegal) including a portrait of Aoua Keita. Photograph by Aurélien Gillier, 2016.