Mali: Henriette Carvalho Kouyate

Seeing a pregnant woman’s luminous smile, hearing the happy cries of children in the playground: that is what drives me.

— Henriette Carvalho Kouyate

Madam Henriette Carvalho Kouyate was born in Dakar, Senegal, in 1931. She has spent most of her professional career in the area of health, raising awareness on the problems of female genital mutilation.

In 1975, Henriette Carvalho Kouyate was the first Malian woman to get her doctorate in medicine. Before this, she had worked as a midwife after getting a diploma in this specialty in Montpellier, France, in 1953. Henriette distinguished herself in the treatment of sterile women and victims of female genital mutilation so that they have normal fertility and a happy life in the African context. She has fought a great deal for the protection of women, children, and for reproductive control. Henriette also contributed to the struggle in Mali against female genital mutilation and ensured that national opinion came to understand that female genital mutilation is a public health problem for women everywhere. More and more Malian men and women understand today that this ancestral practice cannot be justified anymore due to its negative effects on maternal health. Henriette Carvalho Kouyate is also a writer and has published a book on female genital mutilation and sexually transmitted diseases. She is, thus, a pioneer in female health and in the well-being of women and children in Mali. After her retirement, she became a counselor to the young in an area that has marked all her professional life as a doctor and writer. Having spent many years in French exile, today Henriette (74) says that she has had a wonderful life as a doctor in the Malian capital. She keeps her memories of the contribution she has made as first wise woman of Mali.