In 2014, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem became the first French Female Education Minister. Hers is a story of rags to riches and overcoming obstacles that most assume to be insurmountable. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is proof for women that feminism has reached a pinnacle of success in the west. On top of this evidence that times have changed for women, she also is the youngest woman in such a position of power.
Most remarkable still is that she is also the first Muslim in such a position in the French parliament. Albeit, a non-practicing Muslim, she stood up for Muslim citizens during the recent burkini controversy. Despite the great backlash, she spoke out about people’s rights to being free to choose their lifestyle. She is, however, against the forced wearing of burkinis.
Vallaud-Belkacem is also an immigrant. A bone of contention for many extreme right wing politicians and French citizens. She has been the victim of racism and sexism, and malicious rumors. These have increased since the devastating terrorist attacks France experienced in recent times.
She was only aged 4 when her mother brought their family to France. Her father had already been working in construction in the town of Amiens. This was a huge culture shock for the young Vallaud-Belkacem. Her childhood until then had consisted of a wistful existence tending goats. Born in rural Bni Chiker in northern Morocco, she tended her family’s flocks in the Rif Mountain ranges.
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