In honor of Women’s History Month, the Involvement Newspaper will be featuring African Women Leaders, heroes and activists in a bid to remember their contributions towards a better Africa.
By Sharon Jerotich
Thumbnail Photo Courtesy of alchetron.com
There are not many people whom we can confidently say have changed the course of history for any select group of people however, this one woman changed the course of history for Arabic women everywhere. When the word feminism is mentioned, her name comes to mind.
Born on 23rd June 1879, Nour Al-Huda Mohamed Sultan started on a path that would be celebrated by women for years to come. She is a feminist leader and founded many organizations, one of them being the Egyptian Feminist Union (EFP) IN 1923. The union sought to reform laws restricting personal freedoms e.g., marriage, divorce, child custody, etc.
Huda was educated from an early age in Quranic Arabic and Islamic subjects; this she was taught by female instructors. She was married off to her cousin Ali Pasha Shaarawi at the age of 13. In 1908, Huda founded the first philanthropic society run by Egyptian women. They offered services to poor women and children. She believed that having women run such projects would challenge the view that women are created for men’s pleasure and in need of protection.
In 1919, Huda played a key role in the Egyptian revolution, leading women protestors advocating Egyptian independence from the British and the release of male nationalist leaders.
Her husband was elected vice president of the nationalist liberal Wafd party and kept her informed on the developments taking place during the revolution. He did this so that she would take his place in the instance he was arrested. With this information, she formed the Wafdist Women Central Committee (WWCC) in 1920 and became its first president. In 1924, she led WWCC in airing their demands, which were ignored. This led her to resignation from the committee.
Huda’s biggest fight was with the Harem system where women were secluded and veiled. Those who came from wealthy families had separate buildings and eunuchs who guarded them and also acted as messengers to the outside world. Women also had to go outside veiled.
Huda is most known for defying this rule. She once removed her veil in public and trampled on it. Women were shocked but later began to cheer; some even followed suit.
Although she passed away on 12th December 1947, her legacy lives on. She deserves to be celebrated for being brave and setting the stage for women all over the world. From Huda, we learn to help other women, defy traditions that are oppressive for women, learn to air our demands, and go for what we want. Nour Al-Huda Mohamed Sultan, we celebrate you!