Tewhida Ben Sheikh

Tewhida Ben Sheikh (also known as Tawhida Ben Cheikh or Taouhida Ben Cheikh) (January 2, 1909 in Tunis – December 6, 2010) 1 was the first modern Muslim woman in North Africa to become a doctor . She was a pioneer in sexual health, in particular by facilitating access to contraceptive methods and abortion . 2

Early years

Tewhida Ben Sheikh was born in Tunisia , capital of the country of the same name . Her initial education was in the first public school for Muslim girls, which was established by the authorities of the French protectorate. In that school, Ben Sheikh learned Arabic, French, studied the Koran , among other subjects. 3 She traveled to Paris to continue her education at the Medical School, graduating in 1936. 4 After her return to Tunisia, local doctors welcomed her with a dinner in her honor. 5

Tunisia was a French colony at the time. Ben Sheikh came from a traditional Tunisian family who was socially conservative, and her widowed mother was reluctant to send her to France after high school; Her high school teachers and a doctor at the Louis Pasteur Institute in Tunisia convinced her that her daughter had a great talent. 4

Professional achievements

Ben Sheikh specializes in gynecology and ran a women’s clinic in Tunisia. 1 In North Africa, Muslim custom prohibits male doctors from examining women. 5 Ben Sheikh was an active promoter of family planning in the 60s and 70s trained other doctors in the abortion procedure. 6

The daughter of Ben Sheikh Zeïneb Benzina Ben Abdallah is an important archaeologist and Director of Research at the National Heritage Institute of Tunisia.


  1. ↑ Jump to:a b «The doyenne des médecins tunisiens n’est plus. La famille médicale tunisienne en deuil ” . The Presse of Tunisie (in French) . 7 December 2010.
  2. Back to top↑ Huston, Perdita (1992). Motherhood by choice: pioneers in women’s health and family planning (in English) . Feminist Press at the City University of New York. P. 95. ISBN  1558610685 .
  3. Back to top↑ Nashat, Guity; Judith E. Tucker (1999). Women in the Middle East and North Africa: Restoring Women to History (in English) . Indiana University Press. P. 83. ISBN  9780253212641 .
  4. ↑ Jump to:a b «Women in World History: Primary Sources» . George Mason University.
  5. ↑ Jump to:a b Sadiqi, Fatima; Amira Nowaira ,; Azza El Kholy (2009). Women writing Africa: The Northern region (in English) . The Feminist Press at The City University of New York. P. 155. ISBN  9781558614376 .
  6. Back to top↑ O’Reilly, Andrea (2010). Encyclopedia of Motherhood 1 . SAGE. P. 399. ISBN  9781412968461 .