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Known for Being

An Egyptian feminist writer, activist, physician, and psychiatrist.

Major Accomplishments

Dr. Nawal El Saadawi is an internationally renowned author, creative writer, and fighter for women's rights. Her novels and books on women have been translated to thirty languages and studied in many universities. As a result of her courage to break political, sexual, and religious taboos, she suffered numerous types of oppression including prison, exile, death threats, and trials in Egyptian courts. She continues to devote her time to being a writer, journalist and an international speaker on women's issues.

El Saadawi graduated as a medical doctor from Cairo University in 1955, and faced the unequal treatment of women while working in her birthplace of Kafr Tahla. From 1973-1976, El Saadawi researched women and neurosis in Ain Shams University Faculty of Medicine. From 1979-1980 El Saadawi was a United Nations Advisor for the Women's Program in Africa (ECA) and the Middle East (ECWA). Later in 1980, as a culmination of her long fight for Egyptian women's social and intellectual freedom, she was imprisoned under the Sadat regime for alleged "crimes against the state." El Saadawi stated: "I was arrested because I believed president Sadat. He said there is democracy in Egypt, and we have a multi-party system and you can criticize. So I started criticizing his policy and I landed in jail." In spite of her imprisonment, El Saadawi continued to fight against oppression. She was released in 1982. In 1983 she published Memoirs from the Women's Prison, in which she continued her bold attacks on the Egyptian government. In the afterword to her memoirs, she notes the corrupt nature of her country's government, the dangers of publishing under such authoritarian conditions and her determination to continue to write the truth.
El Saadawi also founded the Arab Women's Solidarity Association (AWSA) in the early 1980s. AWSA was an independent feminist organization in Egypt. The organization has 500 members locally and more than 2,000 internationally. The Association holds international conferences and seminars, publishes a magazine, and has started income-generating projects for women in rural areas. AWSA was banned in 1991 after criticizing US involvement in the Gulf War, which El Saadawi felt should have been solved among the Arabs.

Last modified: 01/09/2019

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