Inspiring: Daughter of construction worker is now the Education minster of France
New Delhi: While most of us crib and rant about being victims to unfavourable conditions stopping us from achieving what we want, this story proves that hostile circumstances are but a state of mind. This is the tale of French Education Minister Najat Belkacem who was born to a construction worker. Najat has been in office as Minister of Education & Research, in France since August 25, 2014. Just 36-years-old, Najat has many firsts to her credit.
She is first woman to assume the position of the Education minister and the youngest person to achieve this feat. Moreover, she is also the first Muslim to be appointed to the post in the European nation.
Najat is the second of seven children in the Moroccon village of Nador. Her grandmothers were respectively Spanish and Algerian.
Her earliest memories of childhood, as she narrated in one of her interviews, was she tending goats in secluded area of France. Seeing a car pass by, was a rare sight for Najat. After being born in Nador, at the age of four she, her mother and older sister joined her father at France, where he was a construction worker in 1982. In her family, men and women had traditional roles: The men worked, the women looked after the children. Her mother nevertheless pushed the seven children to study and encouraged the girls to be financially independent.
Najat’s father was a strict man. She and her sisters were not allowed to date, so she turned to books for escape. The lack of leisure activities provided her a chance to excel in school. She attended law school, then the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Studies — a training ground for the French political elite — where she met her husband, Boris Vallaud, a confidant of Mr. Hollande who is now deputy chief of staff at the Élysée Palace.
Speaking on why she joined politics, Najat had once said,
“I decided to make a lifetime commitment against social injustices, against inequalities, and that is why I am profoundly from the left.”
Najat climbed the political ladder after she worked closely with the team of Lyon Mayor Gerard Collomb in 2003, leading actions to strengthen local democracy, fight against discrimination, promotion of citizen rights and access to employment and housing.
In 2004, she was elected to the Regional Council of Rhone-Alpes in 2004. She sat on the chair of the Culture Commission, till 2008, when she resigned.
In 2005 and 2006 she was a columnist for the cultural programme C’est tout vu on Télé Lyon Municipale alongside Stéphane Cayrol.
In February 2007 she joined Ségolène Royal’s campaign team as a spokeswoman, alongside Vincent Peillon and Arnaud Montebourg.
With 58.52% votes in the second round, Najat was elected conseillère générale of the Rhône department in the cantonal elections in March 2008. She contested under the banner of the Socialist Party.