”If our men won’t fight, we will”. A Gendered Analysis of the Armed Conflict in Northern Mali


  • Helene Lackenbauer
  • Magdalena Tham Lindell
  • Gabriella Ingerstad

Publish date: 2015-11-30

Report number: FOI-R--4121--SE

Pages: 77

Written in: English


  • Gender
  • conflict analysis
  • marginalisation
  • armed conflict
  • radicalisation
  • terrorism
  • Africa
  • African security
  • Mali
  • West Africa
  • Sahel
  • gender


The armed conflict in northern Mali has developed significantly since it broke out in 2012. The overwhelming result of this study is that its respondents are in unanimous agreement that the root causes of the violent conflict in Mali are marginalization and discrimination. The conflict is nurtured by the pervasive stratification between almost all groups in the society. The cleavages run between geographic locations, genders, ethnic groups, generations and classes, and enables hierarchies between those that dominate and those that are dominated. Marginality serves as a place of resistance for many groups, also northern women since many of them have grievances that are linked to their limited access to public services and human rights. For these women, marginality is a site of resistance that motivates them to mobilise men to take up arms against an unwilling government. The Islamists have exploited the vacuum left behind by the absent government, through their provision of services such as health care and employment. They have also used the stratification between social classes to gain the support of impoverished communities and offer some sort of social mobility to both poor women and men. Islamist groups have also gained support from local populations in situations of pervasive violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, and they have offered to restore security in exchange for local support. The strict stratification between men and women in Mali confines and constricts women's participation to the private sphere. Being denied a place in the public sphere does not need to signify that women do not have the power to impact the conflict dynamics and the use of violence. This study reveals that women with limited participation in the public sphere can have power to instigate violent conflict, as well as contribute to peace. Thus it is important to include them in peace talks aiming at sustainable peace.