Gisèle Rabesahala

Gisèle Rabesahala (Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA UNESCO/Rabesahala family archives)On the 27th of June 2011, one day after the fiftieth anniversary of Madagascar's independence, Malagasy politician and activist Gisèle Rabesahala passed away. She had devoted her life to her country’s movement towards independence, its human rights and was an active voice for the freedom of peoples. Rabesahala was the first Malagasy woman to hold a ministerial position. She is regarded as a pioneer in Malagasy politics.

Born in Madagascar on 7 May 1929, Rabesahala spent her childhood between France, Tunisia and Mali, where her father was a non-commissioned officer in the French army. When he passed away in 1942, she returned to Madagascar with her family. She eventually earned her Preparatory Certificate and trained as a shorthand typist.

At 17, she got involved in politics, as secretary to the Democratic Movement for Malagasy Renewal (MDRM), which campaigned for the country’s independence. She soon made a name for herself as a female politician of exceptional ability in a political world dominated by men. She was the first Malagasy woman to be elected as a municipal councilor in 1956 and was also the first woman to become the leader of a Malagasy political party, the Union of the Malagasy People, which she founded in 1956 . She later co-founded the Congress Party for the Independence of Madagascar (AKFM). After Madagascar’s independence in 1960, the AKFM campaigned for a long time in opposition and party members were subjected to the pressures of the ruling party.

In 1975, the AKFM took power and established the socialist-Marxist Democratic Republic of Madagascar. Rabesahala was appointed Minister of Culture and Revolutionary Art in 1977, a post she kept until 1991. During her time in office, she founded the National Library (1979), created the Malagasy Copyright Office (1985) and was instrumental in restoring more than twenty-five national sites and historical monuments.

When she died in 2011, the media paid tribute to her by describing her as ‘Mother Courage, mother of the nation’.

(Source: Wikipedia, edited)

Selected publications

Women's access to political leadership in Madagascar : the value of history and social political activism / by A. Altius; J. Raveloharimisy.
In: Journal of International Women's Studies, v17 n4 (2016): 132-142

African women, Pan-Africanism and African renaissance / Sylvia, Serbin; Ravaomalala, Rasoanaivo-Randriamamonjy. - Paris : UNESCO 2015

Gisele Rabesahala: walk to the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga. - Paris : UNESCO 2014

Portraits d'insurgés : Madagascar 1947 / Raharimanana; Pierrot Men. - La Roque d'Anthéron : Vents d'ailleurs, cop. 2011

Que vienne la liberté ! = Ho tonga anie ny Fahafahana ! / Gisèle Rabesahala. - Saint-André : Océan éd., 2006

Historical dictionary of Madagascar / Philip Allen; Maureen Covell. - Lanham, MD [etc.] : The Scarecrow Press, 2005

Société et luttes anticoloniales à Madagascar de 1896 à 1946 / Solofo Randrianja. - Paris : Karthala, cop. 2001

Madagascar / Pierre Vérin. - Paris : Karthala, cop. 2000

“Témoignage”, Madagascar 1947 / Gisèle Rabesahala.
In: Madagascar 1947 : la tragédie oubliée : colloque AFASPA des 9, 10 et 11 octobre 1997. - [Pantin] : Le Temps des cerises, 1999

Histoire de Madagascar / Hubert Deschamps. - Paris : Berger-Levrault, 1960

Contribution à l'histoire de la nation Malgache / Pierre Boiteau. - Paris : Éditions Sociales, 1958

See also: Gisèle Rabesahala, UNESCO: Women in African History

Gisèle Rabesahala parle du 14 octobre 1958 (en malgache)

Timeline of Women government ministers of Madagascar via Wikidata and DBpedia