Although IWD is celebrated on March 8th, there are so many women whose work has improved numerous lives throughout the world, some of who are our very own, within the IAM. Throughout the month of March we will feature women from different parts of the world and historical eras to remind us that the women’s movement indeed has deep and long roots. Follow us as we learn together about women who have left a mark on history and society.
IWD 2021 – Fatima Al-Fihri- Tunisia
Fatima founded the first known university more than 1,000 years ago: the University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco. Guinness World Records acknowledges it as the oldest existing and continually operating educational institution in the world.
In the early 9th century, Fatima’s family along with many other Arabic people, left Tunisia and emigrated to Fez, then, a bustling, cosmopolitan metropolis. When her father died, Fatima and her sister inherited his fortune. The sisters then decided to invest the money in something that would benefit their local community.
In the beginning, the educational part of al-Qarawiyyin offered courses in religious instruction and the Qur’an, but its curriculum gradually expanded into Arabic grammar, mathematics, music, medicine and astronomy, and then began conferring degrees on its graduates.
The mosque became the largest in Africa, with a capacity of 22,000. Al-Qarawiyyin university is still operational, and include alumni like Fatima al- Kabbaj, one of its first female students, who later became the sole female member of the Moroccan Supreme Council of Religious Knowledge.