The fearlessness of a woman: The Journey of Nawal El Saadawi

The life of the great Nawal El Saadawi



Personal life, trauma and discrimination

Nawal was born in 1931, in a village outside Cairo to a governmental official father and a wealthy mother. She was the second of nine children. El Saadawi realized at an early age the discrimination between daughters and sons. According to her BBC interview, she told the story about how she stomped her foot angrily when her grandmother told her “A boy is worth at least 15 girls” and that girls are a blight.

El Saadawi had endured a traumatic experience as she has gone through female genital mutilation (FGM) at the age of six which she mentioned in her book “The Hidden Face of Eve”.

She was fond of writing, she wrote her first novel when she was just 13 years old. Her parents were big believers in the importance of education. She graduated with a medical degree from Cairo University in 1955 and worked as a psychiatrist. Soon after, she became a director of public health for the Egyptian government, but was fired after publishing her book “Women and Sex”.

El Saadawi was married three times, to a doctor, a lawyer, and a writer. Unfortunately, all her marriages ended in divorce. She had two children, Mona Helmi and Atef Hetata.

Feminism and up-lifting women

Nawal was always there to lift up women. According to the BBC, she fought  FGM throughout her lifetime, as in her opinion, it was a method to oppress women. As a result, it was stopped and became forbidden in 2008. She was dismissed from being the director of public health for the Egyptian government in 1972 after releasing her book “Women and Sex”, which fought the idea of FGM and the sexual oppression of women.

She was all about women’s freedom and liberty, as she addressed women’s oppression. According to “Ahram English”, For El Saadawi, the oppression of women was not just about forcing them to follow conservative norms and forcing them to fit a specific category of femininity, and that women should not be forced to wear a veil or even reveal their bodies if they are not comfortable.

Books and works

Not only was she a doctor and a feminist, but she was also a writer. Her books addressed various crucial topics and rebelling against injustice and mistreatments. According to the BBC, she released “Woman at Point Zero”, a novel based on a real-life incident with a woman on death row she had encountered.

In  1977, she wrote “The Hidden Face of Eve” in which she described her experiences as a village doctor observing sexual abuse, “honor killings” and prostitution. This book caused a rage among critics who accused her of destroying Egyptian family values.

In the mid-1950s, El Saadawi published the first edition of “Memoirs of a Woman Doctor”. This book was all about revealing more examples about physical and emotional oppression that women face. The book included the incompetence of the medical services in many rural areas.

Establishing organizations

According to “orgs.law.harvard.edu”, Nawal El Saadawi was the founder and president of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association and co-founder of the Arab Association for Human Rights. She was also an Author with the Supreme Council for Arts and Social Sciences, Cairo and was the founder of Health Education Association and the Egyptian Women Writers Association.

Awards

She was awarded honorary degrees on three continents. In 2004, she won the North–South Prize from the Council of Europe. In 2005, she won the Inana International Prize in Belgium, and in 2012, the International Peace Bureau awarded her the 2012 Seán MacBride Peace Prize.

Sadly, she passed away on 21st of march, 2021 at a hospital in Cairo, Egypt. She left a legacy for women who face oppression in different aspects of life to rely on. She was a fighter and a believer of the liberation of women.