Tunisia in the 1950s was a country without its own engineers, professors or doctors. Homegrown science was in its infancy, along with science education. For girls, education was a long struggle. Only a handful managed to work their way through the system, even after they were granted equal rights to men.
One who did make it all the way to the top was Zohra Ben Lakhdar, now director of the Laboratory of Atomic-Molecular Spectroscopy and Applications at Tunis El Manar University in Tunisia. In this article, Ben Lakhdar chronicles her rise from a young girl "dazzled" by science to a physicist of international renown.
Ben Lakhdar reveals tremendous dedication and persistence as she charts her years of study in Tunis and Paris, culminating in a physics doctorate. But, although asked to stay on in France, she decided to return to Tunisia.
Working within the constraints imposed by a lack of facilities and instruments, Ben Lakhdar has nonetheless pursued her commitment to build up Tunisian science by focusing on locally important issues and helping others join the global science community.
For Tunisian women, obstacles remain. But Ben Lakhdar is insistent: respect for tradition need not cancel out scientific ambition.
Link to full article in Science