My project examines why women in Burkina Faso participate more in local government than women in neighboring Mali. I identify that women's participation in community associations is a source for the development of the agency to participate in local government. My project, which will involve archival research and immersive study of local government and associational participation, will be situated at the village level along the countries' shared border. This research design allows me to investigate differences between the two countries within populations that are similar in other respects. I hypothesize that in Burkina Faso associational forms have developed in which women gain the capacity and efficacy to make claims on local government as women and agricultural producers, while in Mali associational forms have developed in which women gain the capacity and efficacy to act as businesswomen who seek advancement by engaging in commerce. In preliminary research I trace Malian women's low levels of participation in local government to a prominent socio-political divide in Mali between political elite and citizens. Research in contemporary Mali finds that ordinary Malians express disdain for and distrust of politics, and that many Malians believe that politics is tainted. In this context, women may be even more likely to avoid politics than men. I argue that this divide in Mali, which is not present in neighboring Burkina Faso, developed during the late colonial period before Mali achieved independence from France. Through the project I attempt an initial disaggregation of French colonial legacy, and I aim to understand contemporary variation in women's involvement in local government.