Social Issues

Feminism circulates hand to hand in Tunisia

By Natalia Roman

Tunis, Aug 7 (efe-epa).- Tunisia’s first female doctor Tawhida Ben Cheikh also became the first woman to feature on the country’s banknotes in March.

The pioneering feminist was also the first female medical practitioner in north Africa and the first to join the National Council of the Order of Physicians.

Her daughter Zeineb Ben Zina recalls how she was also the first to open a family planning center in Tunisia in 1963.

Ben Cheikh, who died in 2010 at the age of 101, challenged societal prejudices and her aristocratic family who could not conceive of a woman leaving home without a guardian in 1934, much less traveling to France to study medicine.

On her return, she founded her own practice in a working-class neighborhood of the capital Tunis.

She started as a pediatrician before becoming the first Tunisian gynecologist.

“I remember the line of women waiting for her in the street, at any time of day,” Ben Zina says.

“When she went to her patients’ homes for delivery, many had no water or hygienic conditions and often could not afford to pay her.

“That’s why they called her the doctor of the poor.”

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