First Muslim French Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: From Shepherd Girl in Morocco to the Education Minister in France
The first woman and the youngest person Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, 36, (born Najat Belkacem on 4 October 1977) is a French socialist politician, who on 25 August 2014 was the first French woman and the youngest person, as well as first Muslim to be appointed Minister of Education, Higher Education, and Research, joining the second Valls government.
Previously she was Minister of Women’s Affairs (16 May 2012 to 25 August 2014, Ayrault government and Valls government), Minister of City Affairs (2 April 2012 to 25 August 2014, Valls government), Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports (2 April 2012 to 25 August 2014, Valls government), and Government spokesperson (16 May 2012 to 31 March 2014, Ayrault government).
She was the spokesperson of Ségolène Royal’s campaign during the 2007 French presidential election and again in 2009 for the 2011 French Socialist Party presidential primary. Since 2008, she has been a Councillor of the city of Lyon, responsible for major events, youth and community life.
While some are too busy shouting #BanMuslims or #BanMoroccans, Najat Belkacem quietly reminds us that immigrants are an asset – and that believing in our children and investing in them with the right character traits and the right education literally means the sky is the limit.
Second in a family of seven children, Najat Belkacem was born in the Moroccan countryside in 1977 in Bni Chiker, a village near Nador in the Rif region. Her grandmothers were respectively Spanish and Algerian. In 1982 she joined her father, a building worker, with her mother and elder sister Fatiha, and grew up in the suburbs of Amiens. She graduated from the Institut d’études politiques de Paris (Paris Institute of Political Studies) in 2002.
At the Institut she met Boris Vallaud, whom she married on 27 August 2005.
On 16 May 2012, she was appointed to French President François Hollande’s cabinet as Minister of Women’s Rights and spokeswoman for the government.