Google Doodle celebrates Tunisian physician Tawhida Ben Cheikh (also Tewhida Ben Sheikh; توحيدة بن الشيخ), the first modern Tunisian female in North Africa to become a doctor and a pioneer in women’s medicine, specifically contraception and abortion access, on March 27, 2021.
Who was Tawhida Ben Cheikh?
Tewhida Ben Sheikh (additionally Tawhida Ben Cheikh, Taouhida Ben Cheikh; توحيدة بن شيخ) was born on January 2, 1909, in Tunis, the present-day capital of Tunisia, at the time a French protectorate.
Her early education was at Tunisia’s first public school for Muslim girls, which was set up by “Tunisian nationalists and liberal French protectorate authorities”. While going to this school, Ben Sheik was taught Arabic, French, the study of the Qur’an, and modern subjects.
Supported by her mother, in 1928 Tewhida Ben Sheikh became the first Tunisian female to graduate secondary school, however, she didn’t stop there.
Tawhida Ben Cheikh (توحيدة بن الشيخ) made a trip to the School of Medicine in Paris to seek after her education, procuring a degree in medicine in 1936. Upon her re-visitation of Tunis, she was given a dinner in her honor by local doctors.
In a break from traditional expectations of women, she proceeded to procure her medical degree in Paris in 1936 at 27 years old.
Upon Tawhida Ben Cheikh’s re-visitation of Tunis that year, Ben Cheikh made history when she opened her own free medical practice. With primary specialties in gynecology and obstetrics, she proceeded to become the head of the maternity department of the city’s Charles-Nicolle hospital in 1955.
At that point during the ’70s, Tewhida Ben Sheikh established Tunisia’s first family planning clinic. Ben Cheikh additionally added to various women’s associations and established Leïla, the country’s first French-language women’s magazine.
Tunisia was a French colony at that point. Tawhida Ben Cheikh came from an elite Tunisian family which was socially conservative, and her widowed mother was hesitant to permit her to go to France after secondary school; in any case, her secondary school instructors and a doctor from the Louis Pasteur Institute of Tunis (Dr. Etienne Burnet), persuaded Ben Sheik’s mom that she showed significant guarantee.
Work in gynecology, Tawhida Ben Cheikh coordinated a women’s clinic in Tunisia. Ben Sheik was an “active” ally of family planning; during the 1960s and 1970s, she taught doctors abortion procedures.
In March 2020 Dr. Tawhida Ben Cheikh featured on the new 10-dinar banknote issued by the Central Bank of Tunisia.
On March 27, 2021, Google observes Tawhida Ben Cheikh, generally credited as the first female doctor in Tunisia, with a Google Doodle.
A women’s activist pioneer both all through the medical field, Tewhida Ben Sheikh (توحيدة بن شيخ) changed Tunisian medicine by giving women better access to contemporary healthcare.
On March 27th, 2020, the Tunisian government issued a new 10-dinar note embellished with Ben Cheikh’s picture—the world’s first-since forever banknote to highlight a female doctor.