Nawal El Saadawi, a Life Dedicated to Vindicating Women’s Rights

Nawal El Saadawi, a Life Dedicated to Vindicating Women’s Rights

Egyptian Nawal El Saadawi never separated from the pen that cost her jail and exile.

Once she began to capture her thoughts in a journal that she started at age 13 and that, according to her, she kept jealously under her bed, she never separated from the pen that cost her jail and exile.

And on any given day, people leave our bodies and continue walking through mysterious paths where no one can see us anymore. But our legacy remains, the footprints left are there to be recognized.

The feet of the Egyptian Nawal El Saadawi led her to scenarios where her voice in favor of women's rights was always heard. Her message against ablation – of which she was a victim – echoed in many corners. She died in Cairo at the age of 89 on Saturday, March 20.

El Saadawi had difficult days. She was censured in Egypt and other Arab countries for speaking from the rooftops in favor of women's rights, always addressing issues considered prohibited such as the relationship between the words "woman" and "sex" or the position that should correspond to them in systems patriarchal. Because of her constant denunciations of her, radical Islamist groups threatened her with death in the 90s, but she was never intimidated. She lived in the United States until 2011 when she, after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, returned to her roots and her Egyptian land where she dedicated every day of her life to spreading a firm stance against submission. feminine.

She was characterized by her vehemence, her dark and inquisitive eyes, the brown skin that she experienced many scorching suns, and a dark, messy and wavy hair that eventually turned white and stayed that way forever. She used to appear in public without fancy clothes, makeup, or elaborate hairstyles because she, in that way, made it clear that women should show their faces naturally.

She never gave up the fight

Nawal El Saadawi was born in Egypt, in Kafr Tahla, Nile Delta, in 1931. As a child, she felt discrimination between boys and girls at school and began to express her thoughts against the forms of female subjection in the world.

The first words that betrayed her outrage were in a diary that she started at age 13 and that, according to her, she jealously kept under her bed. Since then she has never separated from the pen that cost her jail and exile. Nothing about her made her abandon her struggle for causes such as the suffering that many girls whose genitals are mutilated still experience today!


She achieved a medical degree in 1950 and chose psychiatry as her specialty. After 22 years she wrote the book entitled "Woman and Sex" where she denounced the absurd control of the female body exercised based on political and religious precepts. Those letters were considered audacious in Egypt and cost him her position in the Ministry of Health and the closure of the Sanitary Culture Association that she had founded.

Bars and pencils

Her permanent messages and her writings against the Anwar al Sadat regime and capitalism led her to live the experience of being behind bars in 1981. There, with eyebrow pencils and on toilet paper, she wrote “Memories from the women's prison.”

She left a legacy of 60 written works, among which “Woman at Point Zero” stands out, a story starring Firdaus, a woman from a peasant family who sought compassion and knowledge and found very little of both. Firdaus' relationships teach her that the only people who can be called free are those who do not expect, do not have, and do not want anything.

The feather of El Saadawi had the female veil as the protagonist because she always considered it as a cut of the head, a symbol of slavery, and of wanting to prevent them from thinking. In an interview for the Spanish newspaper El País in 2017, she said: “The veil turns women into headless bodies. In Christianity, the more devout a woman was, the more she covered herself. Think of the nuns. Islam inherited it. So you cannot be a feminist and approve of the veil. There is no freedom of choice, to admit it is to accept slavery.”

Her legacy in forceful phrases

From the many conferences that Nawal El Saadawi gave in the United States and other countries and her prolific lyrics, a legacy remained in phrases that reflect the way of seeing the world of a woman who experienced firsthand the influence of machismo.

– When you are smart and beautiful you face a lot of problems. If you are beautiful and stupid, then it's easy.

– I am very against makeup and high heels and everything that we have inherited as "beauty."

– Home is where you are valued, where you are safe and protected, and where you are loved, not where you are locked up like in prison.

– When we live in a world that is very unfair, you have to be a dissident.

– Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, the three monotheistic religions that dominate the world, are a macho, racist, military, and fanatic system that particularly oppresses women and the poor. In Egypt, we were colonized by the British and now we are colonized by the Americans and the Europeans. Women can never be liberated in a country that is not liberated.

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