Who is This Celebrated Tunisian Doctor?

Search engine giant Google celebrated on Saturday the life of Tawhida Ben Cheikh, the first woman credited to practice medicine in North Africa, with one of its iconic doodles.

The doodle honors Ben Cheikh as a feminist and pioneer, and marks one year since she was commemorated on Tunisia’s 10-dinar bill, making her the first female doctor on a banknote.

She was the first Tunisian female to graduate from secondary school in 1928, and proceeded with her education — sidestepping expectations of women prevalent at the time — to earn her medical degree in Paris at the age of 27.

On her return to Tunisia, she opened her own free medical practice — a move that would transform Tunisian medicine by providing greater access to modern healthcare.

She later on became the head of the maternity department of the city’s Charles-Nicolle hospital in 1955 and in the 1970’s, founded Tunisia’s first family planning clinic.

 

Apart from her role in medicine, she was also a social activist and founder of Leïla, the country’s first French-language women’s magazine—becoming an icon for women in the region.

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