Dr. Saadawi was born in kafr Tahla, Egypt and is the eldest of nine children. From a young age, her parents encouraged her to speak her mind and taught her the importance of self-respect. In 1955, Saadawi completed medical school, graduating from Cairo University. Her medical practice allowed her to observe women’s physical and psychological problems and connect them with oppressive cultural practices, patriarchal oppression, class oppression, and imperialist oppression. As a doctor in her birthplace, Saadawi witnessed the hardships and inequalities faced by rural women and attempted to help those she could. In Cairo, Dr. Saadawi became the Director of Public Health but after publishing Al-Mar’a Al-Jins (Women and Sex), which confronts and contextualizes various aggressions perpetrated against women’s bodies, including female circumcision, she was dismissed from her position.
Through her struggles, Dr. Saadawi never stopped writing. She used her life experiences as inspiration for many works. In 1981, her outspoken political views led to her being charged with crimes against the state and she was jailed for three months. She used the time to write Memoirs From The Women's Prison on a roll of toilet paper, with an eyebrow pencil smuggled in by a fellow prisoner. In 1993, she fled to the US after religious groups targeted her with death threats. Saadawi says danger has always been a part of her life ever since she picked up a pen and wrote. Her novels, plays and short stories confront the problems women face in Egypt and address controversial issues such as prostitution, domestic violence and religious fundamentalism. As a novelist and feminist, Dr. Saadawi recognizes the importance and link between medicine, literature, politics, economics, psychology and history in understanding the oppression of women.
Saadawi is the founder and president of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association and co-founder of the Arab Association for Human Rights. She also is the founder of Health Education Association and the Egyptian Women Writer’s Association. She has been awarded honorary degrees on three continents. In 2004, she won the North-South prize from the Council of Europe and in 2005 the Inana International Prize in Belgium. She has held positions at prestigious universities including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Georgetown, Florida State University and the University of California, Berkeley.
While her writing and political views have put her life in danger, Saadawi has been willing to sacrifice a comfortable life and job to critically examine her society and the world we live in. Epsilon Alpha Sigma applauds her efforts to challenge the oppressions women face universally. Her courage and dedication to her writing inspires the young Arab women of ΕΑΣ to push beyond socially constructed limitations, and fight the battles necessary to achieve the freedom, equality, and opportunities we deserve.