A Tribute to Madjiguène Cissé

Message from Women of Colour/Global Women’s Strike and Payday men’s network to the Paris organisers of the tribute to Madjiguène Cissé who passed away on 15 May 2023.

We send our deepest condolences to Madjiguène Cissé’s family and friends and all the people – with and without papers – who have had the honour of knowing her. We first met Madjiguène in 1996 just after the Sans-Papiers’ eviction from the church of Saint-Bernard in Paris, where 300 Sans-Papiers had been organising occupations, hunger strikes and mobilising support in other ways for the right to stay. They were the first to demand papers for all, inspiring immigrant collectives, and the wider movement. Their movement spread throughout France and beyond.

Madjiguène was often on her mobile phone (this was new then) dealing with hundreds of urgent things, but she always found the time for lively conversations with visitors about the situation on the ground and what support was needed.

The autonomy of the Sans-Papiers – from NGOs, unions, the left, and individual supporters – was central to their struggle and their success.

Madjiguène’s pathbreaking article, Les Sans-Papiers: Les premiers enseignements (A Woman Draws the First Lesson), is a powerful account of how African women taking their autonomy from men was key to the movement’s direction. Without women’s caring work, how could 300 people, including women and children, sustain themselves for months in occupations and stay together in the face of police and government repression?

Madjiguène wrote: “Every time the battle lost momentum, women met and found initiatives to restart it.”  There is no doubt that Madjiguène, also a mother, would have contributed greatly to that.

Consulting with Madjiguène, we translated and publicised her article into English. As organisers against deportation, we shared her perspective: the need for immigrants to be independent of supporters, and of women to be independent of men. We believe that this ground breaking movement in France has helped energise everyone into demanding papers for all regardless of immigration status or country.

Madjiguène was a tireless organizer, a powerful speaker and an original thinker who campaigned with immigrants of all nationalities. Without her immense contribution, it is hard to imagine how the Sans-Papiers in France would have remained to this day a point of reference for all those opposing immigration controls and indeed all of us who are looking to build and widen movements for social justice.

Madjiguène’s legacy remains a benchmark for today and tomorrow’s struggles as we continue to confront the heartless murderous governments which are causing the deaths of thousands of people crossing borders to escape war, ecological devastation and exploitation. We all have the right to be here. ​

Madjiguène presente! We miss you and cherish your vital contribution. La lutte continue. 

Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike and Payday men’s network