NAYA| Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: From an immigrant to a minister

When she first started her career as a minister, Vallaud-Belkacem was faced with backlash.
by Zeinab Hamdar and Ghadir Hamadi

1 May 2019 | 17:25

Source: by Annahar

Photo shows Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. (AFP Photo).

BEIRUT: Interweaving Moroccan and French cultures to fit one body is in itself an accomplishment but, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem’s did not stop there. She became the first female Muslim French Minister of Education, Higher Education, and Research in 2014.

Crossing oceans and mountains to get to France from Morocco was not the only challenge Vallaud-Belkacem faced. During her talk to a group of Lebanese youth at the American University of Beirut last week, Vallaud-Belkacem highlighted key obstacles that brought about the person she is today.

A family of seven children, Vallaud-Belkacem was brought up in rather unfortunate conditions that led to her stance on education, reading being her only escape.

“When I was young, my mom would always tell me that life had a much bigger and better imagination than us,” she said.

She graduated from the Institut d'études politiques de Paris (Paris Institute of Political Studies) in 2002 and soon after, joined the Socialist Party in an attempt to put an end to discrimination and the many various forms it undertakes.

In 2012, she was appointed to French President François Hollande’s cabinet as Minister of Women’s Rights and spokeswoman for the government.

“At night, I’d prepare what I wanted to say in front of the government, but the next day I’d forget half of them when I’d see over 800 people staring back at me,” she noted as she discussed how challenging this was for her at first.

Eventually, her brother gave her an advice, which she still practices until this day: imagine that all those around you are actors and actresses in a play and you’re simply an outsider watching them.

When she first started her career as a minister, Vallaud-Belkacem was faced with backlash.

“I was called names [and] accused of trying to Islamise France,” she revealed.

Nevertheless, being originally Moroccan was only one of the many challenges she had faced in her career.

One of the more personal challenges that she had to overcome was the fact that she came from a less fortunate family.

“Coming from a poor family gave me wealth and allowed me to understand a lot of stakes that I was facing and a lot of faith to face social justice,” she shared.

This motivated her to address the issue of student drop-out, the diminishment of which has proven successful over the years.

Vallaud-Belkacem briefly touched upon the crucial role parents play in their children’s choice in education. She reiterated the importance of encouraging children to follow their passion and not limit themselves to anything less.

“Many current jobs are dying,” she emphasised, “we have to encourage our kids to study something that needs their human and creative side, something machines can’t do.”


Welcome to “Naya,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations. Naya editor, Sally Farhat:

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