'To know, to be able, to want and to dare': Google doodles on late Egyptian activist Doria Shafik

Ahram Online , Wednesday 14 Dec 2016

Google celebrates the 108th birthday of the women's rights advocate

Doria Shafik

A new Google Doodle—an illustration added to Google's homepage to commemorate holidays and historical events—celebrates Doria Shafik, "one of the leading champions for the Egyptian women’s liberation movement, a powerful female force that set out against the status quo from an early age."

The Doodle links to a Google search of Shafik, where users can learn the history of the activist and her work in Egypt.

Born on 14 December 1908, to a middle-class family of Tanta, Shafik obtained her basic education at a nuns' school before enrolling at the Sorbonne, where she wrote a doctoral dissertation on "Egyptian Women and Islam."

In a profile of Shafik Ahram Online published in 2001, we read that after her return from Paris in 1945, Shafik founded the magazine Bint Al-Nil (Daughter of the Nile). 

"In 1948, she founded Ittihad Bint Al-Nil (Daughter of the Nile Union), described by Margot Badran and Miriam Cooke as 'a broadly based middle class feminist association with branches in a number of provincial cities [through which] she focused on female literacy and political rights for women.' In 1953, Shafik created the Daughter of the Nile political party, which was closed down by the government within a year. In 1954, she went on a hunger strike with several members of the union to make heard their demands for political rights for women. In the 1960s, she was placed under house arrest following her call for the removal of then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser," Al Ahram Weekly writes.

"Although Shafik militated all her life for the improvement of women's lot, nothing she did caught the imagination of her contemporaries and the media as much as her storming of the parliament on 19 February 1951. As she was setting the scene for her action, she wrote: 'The freedom granted so far remained on the surface of our social structure, leaving intact the manacles which bound the hands of the Egyptian women. No one will deliver freedom to women, except woman herself.

"Feminists in Europe and Asia had known of Shafik. After her hunger strike she became an international celebrity and was asked to speak at different venues around the world. Renowned journalist Mustafa Amin commented: 'Doria began to journey to all parts of the world, publicizing the case of... Egyptian [women]. She traveled East and West and met with leaders and rulers. Prime Minister Nehru invited her to be his guest during her visit to India. In 1954 news agencies said that Dr. Doria Shafik was one of the most important women in the world and the Daily Mirror described her as 'wanting to be a twentieth century Cleopatra." 

Shafik carried a personal motto, which  inspired her along the path of reformation and justice: “to know, to be able, to want and to dare.”

The activist passed away on 20 September 1975 in Cairo.

The Doria Shafik Google Doodle is regional and can be viewed in North Africa and the Middle East.

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