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Tunisia honours the first woman doctor on a banknote

15.04.2020 / Created by (EMWF)
Tunisia honours the first woman doctor on a banknote

Since March 27, 2020 in Tunisia, the portrait of Tawhida Ben Cheikh decorates the new banknote of 10 dinars issued in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.

Known to have been the first Muslim woman in the Maghreb to practice as a doctor, Tawhida Ben Cheikh was also the first Tunisian woman to have obtained a baccalaureate in 1928.

"Through the choice of Tawhida BEN CHEIKH", which took almost two years to be concluded, underlines Marouane El Abassi, Governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia: « this is a double tribute: firstly, to Tunisian women, but also to all the players in the health sector who are, today, in the front line of the war against the COVID virus-19 ».

Born in 1909 and passed away in 2010, Tawhida Ben Cheikh changed Tunisian history in the twentieth century through her work in the field of women’s health and her specialization in gynecology.

She had a long career as a physician, pediatrician and gynecologist. In the 1930s, after her studies in Paris, she returned to Tunisia and opened her practice near the capital’s medina. Unable to work in the public hospital, which at the time was the pre-square of French doctors, she practiced her profession in the working class areas of the city: "She was known as ’the doctor of the poor’. At the time, women often came to see her to give birth. That’s how she became an obstetrician and then a gynaecologist," her daughter, a 72-year-old archaeologist, tells Le Monde.

Among the many feminist commitments and struggles for civil rights, she fought for access to healthcare for the most disadvantaged and for the right to abortion legalized in Tunisia in 1973 (In France, the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy (IVG) has been authorized since the Veil law of 1975).

Tawhida Ben Cheikh has paved the way for a whole new generation of committed women who want to pursue a career in health: today, almost half of all doctors in Tunisia are women.

Her aknowledgments include a health centre bearing his name in Montreuil, in the outskirts of Paris (2011) and a stamp issued by the Tunisian Post Office (2012). Her portrait on the new banknote has an even more visible revolutionary feature.

Image : Le nouveau billet de 10 dinars à l’effigie de la médecin Tawhida Ben Cheikh. FETHI BELAID / AFP


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