Najat Belkacem: From Moroccan Shepherd Girl to French Education Minister!

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”

-Friedrich Nietzsche (Philosopher)

Your current circumstance may be a hurdle in the way of your hopes and aspirations, but as Najat shows us, with continuous exercise of fortitude, focus and fervour, your prospects of success are limitless.

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In a time when the world is debating whether immigrants are good for the host country or not, at a time when politicians like Trump want to build walls to keep the Mexicans out, and countries like Hungary and Slovakia don’t want to take in any more Syrian refugees, a common shepherd girl from Morocco, the second child of seven siblings, beat the odds and became Minister of Education & Research, France.

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Here is the intriguing fairy tale story of a living legend: Najat Belkacem.

 

A star is born

Najat was born in a village near Nador in the Moroccan countryside of Bni Chiker, in 1977.

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In 1982, she moved to the suburbs of Amiens (France) with her family, to join her father, a construction worker.

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An immigrant by status, her interest in politics started from an early age. She studied hard and graduated from the Paris Institute of Political Studies in 2002. It was at the institute that she met Boris Vallaud, fell in love and later married him in August 2005.

 

Her Political prowess grows

She immediately joined the Socialist party and started fighting for citizen rights, affordable housing and against discrimination and then joined 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.

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Elected to the Regional Council of Rhone-Alpes in 2004, she chaired the Culture Commission, resigning in 2008. In 2005, she became adviser to the Socialist Party. 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.

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In March 2008, she was elected conseillère générale of the Rhône department in the cantonal elections with 58.52% of the votes in the second round, under the banner of the Socialist Party in the canton of Lyon-XIII.

 

All hail Madame Minister

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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. And finally on August 25, 2014, she became the first woman and the youngest person ever (at 36), Najat to be appointed as Minister of Education & Research, in France. This historical moment was achieved by a Muslim, immigrant girl who was born and bred in a village. Najat has proven that there are no boundaries to what you can achieve, if you set your heart on it & work towards it diligently.

 

A target for trolls

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As a Moroccan Muslim French minister who herded sheep in her childhood, Najat’s background, place of birth and religion makes her a perfect target for all the regressive sexist and racist comments conservative politicians and internet trolls can throw at her. Haters have attacked her by calling her slurs, objectifying her for the way she dresses and Najat has continued to fight back efficiently. How can you break the spirit of a woman who has worked hard tooth and nail to get where she is? You just cannot!

 

A living legend

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The Logical Indian lauds Najat Belkacem for the great achievements in her life. She is an inspirational figure who reminds us all that nothing in this world is impossible to achieve.

Najat reminds us that our current circumstance does not have to become our reality. That we should never allow our background to keep our back on the ground.

 

The only person powerful enough to stop you is you. Your only limit in life is that which you decide to place on yourself. Limits are like a mirage in the mind: they only exist when you choose to see them. Do not limit yourself by barriers in your own mind because “you are limitless”

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Published by Ogunbowale Olugbenga

Ogunbowale Olugbenga is a multiple award winning social entrepreneur & digital skills expert. An alumnus of the Leadership in Business Institute of Kellogg School of Management (USA), He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria). Inspired by the plight of millions of unemployed youths, Olugbenga founded Epower.ng, a digital agency passionately growing businesses & accelerating the application of digital skills for economic prosperity across Africa. To help institutions prevent scandals & promote performance, Gbenga founded Polivoice.Work, an anonymous employee feedback tool that captures & analyses feedback anonymously in real time to detect, predict & improve work place conditions. A Mandela Washington Fellow, Tony Elumelu Fellow, Royal Common wealth society fellow, YALI star of business & YALI network influencer, Olugbenga is the founder of Africa’s biggest orphanage outreach, The Orphan Empowerment Society, with a 5,000 strong volunteer force and a presence in 19 African countries empowering thousands of orphans with free vocational skills, medical care, & food. He is also the co-founder of the communication & leadership organization, Pacesetters Leadership Club.

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