Sunday, July 22, 2007

Conservative French President Sarkozy Appoints Three Immigrant Women to the top of his Cabinet



New French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to shake up and renew France when he took office. And he started with his cabinet, which includes 11 women -- three of them from minority backgrounds.

They're women, they're from minority backgrounds and they're feminists. Until recently, those weren't exactly trump cards for someone striving to build a political career in France, even less so when they were trying to build that career in the conservative UMP party.

Still, a woman from the Maghreb region of North Africa is now in charge of the Justice Ministry on Place Vendôme, a woman born in Senegal is responsible for human rights issues in the Foreign Ministry on the Quai d'Orsay and a woman of Algerian descent is to henceforth devote herself to the socially disadvantaged in the banlieues, the suburbs that have been the site of so much unrest in recent years. Dati, Yade and Amara: These names are the first indications that the promise of a "Sarkozy revolution" is being kept.

The irony is, of course, that during the presidential election campaign it was Sarkozy's Socialist rival Royal who grabbed everyone's attention as the embodiment of changed gender roles and as the obvious favorite of female voters. She was the one who called for sexual equality and the integration of ethnic minorities in a "colorful, diverse France." What Royal never mentioned was that for decades the left had failed to even put an end to ethnic discrimination within its own ranks.



Dati as minister of justice is an ideal choice. The 41-year-old, a child of a Moroccan bricklayer and an illiterate Algerian housewife, built a career as a judge before achieving success as Sarkozy's spokeswoman. The president appointed her "so that no child in our suburbs will doubt that there is only one justice in France, the same for all."

The president has another highly valuable colleague in Amara. The outspoken left-wing politician has been active in the struggle against racism and discrimination: She is known across the nation as the founder of the organization "Neither Whores nor Subordinated" (Ni Putes Ni Soumises), which helps Muslim girls. A Muslim herself, she will be responsible for the crumbling suburban fringes of France's major cities.

"Beautiful, black, young" -- that's how French daily Le Parisien describes the attributes of Yade, who -- barely 30 years old -- has been made the State Secretary for Human Rights by Sarkozy. She was born in Dakar, and is the daughter of a diplomatic advisor to Senegalese President Léopold Senghor and a history teacher, and she grew up on the outskirts of Paris. Disappointed by the Socialist Party, the political scientist offered her services to the conservative UMP Party. There, she made her career overnight after delivering a terrific speech in front of 80,000 UMP followers at the beginning of Sarkozy's electoral campaign. She then acquitted herself with elegance and eloquence in discussion forums and TV appearances.

According to Sarkozy's close friends, he views his female team of ministers as a particularly successful coup, and is above all proud of the first steps of his colleagues from minority backgrounds. "When I saw Rachida Dati in the Superior Council of the Judiciary on her red chair, a woman amongst all those men, I was moved," the president said.

He complimented Yade on being like a "wild horse," and then gave her an even greater compliment. "There are only two black women on the international stage," he said. "The American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Rama Yade."

Racism Against Dati



Rachida Dati, France's new justice minister, has had a rough few weeks. She has lost key advisors, she's been attacked in the press and her family has been put in the negative spotlight over drug charges against her brother. Anti-racism activists say Dati has been the victim of a smear campaign.

5 comments:

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Montesquaigne said...

Dati is not "from North Africa", she was born and raised in France

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