Nawal El Saadawi

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Nawal El Saadawi is an Egyptian novelist, essayist and physician. Her works of fiction, addressing such themes as the oppression of women and women’s desire for self-expression, have widened the boundaries of the Arab novel and influenced successive generations of young women over the last three decades. Her books have been banned in Egypt and some other Arab countries.

Dr. El Saadawi worked as a physician at the University of Cairo in the mid-1950s, as well as at the Rural Health Center in Tahla. From 1958 to 1972 she was Director General of Public Health Education in the Ministry of Health and also served as the Editor-in-Chief of Health magazine and Assistant General Secretary for Egypt's Medical Association during that period. In 1972, she was dismissed from her post in the Ministry for publishing Al-mar'a wa-al-jins, which dealt with sex, religion, and the trauma of female circumcision. Health was closed down and her books were censored.

From 1973 to 1978, Dr. El Saadawi was a writer at the High Institute of Literature and Science. She also worked at Ain Shams University's Faculty of Medicine in Cairo as a researcher, and for the United Nations as the Director of African Training and Research Center for Women in Ethiopia and Adviser for the UN Economic Commission for West Africa in Lebanon. In 1981, she was arrested along with other Egyptian intellectuals under President Anwar Sadat's one-party rule and imprisoned for two months in Qanatir Women's Prison. She was released following President Sadat's death in 1982. In 1982, she established the Arab Women's Solidarity Association (AWSA), banned in 1991 by the Egyptian government. When her name appeared on a fundamentalist death list, she left Egypt for the United States, where she taught at Duke University and Washington State University in Seattle. In 1996, she returned to Egypt.

Dr. El Saadawi has been awarded numerous national and international literary prizes, including the High Council of Literature Award, the Literary Franco-Arab Friendship award, the Literary Award of Gubran, and First Degree Decoration of the Republic of Libya. Her works of non-fiction, which have been translated into numerous languages, include Memoirs of a Woman Doctor, Al mar'a wal sira' al-nafsi (about woman and psychological conflict), The Hidden Face of Eve, Memoirs from the Women's Prison, and The Fall of the Iman.

Dr. El Saadawi was born in Kafr Tahla in Lower Egypt’s Delta. She was educated at the University of Cairo, receiving her M.D. in 1955. She later studied at Columbia University, where she received her Master of Public Health degree. In 1964 she married her third husband Sherif Hetata, a physician and novelist.

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