Najat Vallaud Belkacem became the first French Female Education Minister, In 2014
Hers is a French 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 significant backlash, she spoke out about people’s rights to be free to choose their lifestyle. She does, however, speak out 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.
When her mother brought their family to France, she was only aged 4
Her father had already been working in construction in the town of Amiens. Subsequently, the young Vallaud Belkacam felt this to be a huge culture shock. 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.
The culture shock associated with immigration was profound for Vallaud-Belkacem. It was this shock and struggle to adapt that led to her interest in politics and human rights. Her proficiency in the French language only became sufficient during her college years.
A staunch feminist, her socialist convictions influenced her studies at the University of Amiens
Eventually, this earned her a scholarship at the Paris Institute of Political Studies. The strict methods with which her parents raised her enabled her to immerse herself in studies. Her father forbade her from boyfriends and having a social life till she was 18. Additionally, she supported herself financially, working two jobs.
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