If there’s one figurehead for Arab feminism whose footsteps you should follow, it’s Nawal Saadawi’s. The doctor-turned-author tragically died on Sunday at the age of 89, after spending decades fighting for gender equality in the region and beyond.
“I am speaking the truth. And the truth is savage and dangerous,” she once wrote. The Egyptian medical doctor-turned-activist and author spent her life advocating for women’s rights. Aside from the 55 books she authored, El Saadawi founded the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association as well as the Arab Association for human rights.
Her journey as a feminist began when she was a doctor though, advocating for the hardships her female patients went through. She was an avid advocate against female circumcision, a practice that she had been a victim of at six-years-old.
She then became Egypt’s Director of the Ministry of Health, but upon publishing her book, Women and Sex, in 1972—a text that proved to be fundamental to the global feminist movement—the author lost her job. She eventually went on to publish Egypt’s first feminist magazine, Confrontation, in 1981 and was eventually imprisoned, and ultimately exiled in 1988. She returned to Egypt in the early 2000s after a stint in the United States.
Through it all, she built a name for herself through her brutal honesty, spending decades sharing her story and perspective, and ultimately inspiring countless women and men around the globe.