Egyptian physician and writer Nawal El Saadawi was born in 1931 in the village of Kafir Tahla. Her father, an official in the Egyptian Ministry of Education, provided all nine of his children with a university education. El Saadawi qualified as a doctor in 1955 in Cairo. She later studied at Columbia University in New York and received her Master of Public Health degree in 1966.
From 1955-57, she served as a physician at the University of Egypt and at the Rural Health Center in Tahla. From 1958-72 she served as the director general of public health education in the Ministry of Health. She also served as the editor-in-chief of Health magazine and as assistant general secretary for Egypt’s Medical Association.
In 1972, El Saadawi was removed from her position in the ministry for publishing Al-mar’a wa-al-jins (The Hidden Face of Eve), because it dealt with sex, religion and the trauma of female clitoridectomy – all taboo subjects in her country. From 1973-76 she researched women and neurosis in the Ain Shams University’s Faculty of Medicine, and from 1979-80 she was the United Nations Advisor for the Women’s Program in Africa and Middle East.
In 1981, she was arrested and imprisoned along with other Egyptian intellectuals under Anwar Sadat’s regime. She was released upon Sadat’s death in 1982 and founded the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association (AWSA) shortly thereafter. In 1985 AWSA was granted consultant status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations as an Arab non-governmental association. Despite the organization's success, the Egyptian government closed the association in 1991.
To her credit, El Saadawi has published more than 30 novels and papers including Woman at Point Zero, The Hidden Face of Eve and The Innocence of the Devil. She has won more than 15 awards, including the Literary Award of Gubran; the Literary Award by the Franco-Arab Friendship Association, Paris, France; Great Minds of the 21st Century Award from the American Biographical Institute; and the International Writer of the Year for 2003.