Meet Sonia Ben Cheikh: The Arab Woman Currently Heading Two Ministries

After the horrific death of 15 infants in a public hospital in Tunisia was dismissed by the former health minister, he was forced to resign. In his place, Minister of Youth and Sports Sonia Ben Cheikh was appointed acting Health Minister of Tunisia, making her the first woman in her country to head two ministries at the same time. In awe of her spirit and dedication to the wellbeing of her country, we wanted to shed a light on her life.

About Her Education
Ben Cheikh holds a doctorate degree from the Medicine School of Tunis, one of the only four schools specializing in health in the country and an affiliate of the University of Tunis El Manar. Dr. Ben Cheikh also works as a Professor of Hospital Assistance in the Faculty of Medicine in Tunis.

About Her Background
Prior to her appointment, Ben Cheikh was already an active member in the government. She was a doctor in the Health Ministry for 20 years, a ministerial undersecretary in 2016, and held many responsibilities as an expert working for international and regional organizations in the field. Her excellency also supervised a number of joint projects between the Ministry of Health, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank. The doctor also represented Tunisia in the International Organization for Population and Development (NEPAD), and served as the President of the National Office of the Family and Human Development, which reports back to the Tunisian Ministry of Health.

About Her Progressive Ideas and Beliefs 
Minister Ben Cheikh prefers management to medicine after she was convinced that she could do more for this sector, behind the walls of the ministry and not in the corridors of the hospitals. She was one of those doctors that form an emotional connection with patients, and so she preferred to stay away from the practice of medicine. "I have concluded that death is an unavoidable necessity and that the doctor delays it but does not cancel it," she says.

In spite of the criticism that accompanied her appointment as Minister of Sports and Youth, and then as Acting Minister of Health, Sheikh stresses that she does not ignore the remarks made to her, even on social networking pages, and that she is keen to codify them and refer them to her assistants for follow-up. The minister is adamant to follow up on all the files presented to herself, and says that she believes that a successful official is the one who has the ability to manage the team away from the vertical relations.

Minister Ben Cheikh also does not take gender inequality lightly, as she known for not catering to gendered discourse at all. She believes that Arab women have to pursue roles because they are worthy of significant positions and responsibilities. "Women have proven themselves every single time they were tested," she says, "and they have proven to be the best as well."

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