An image of a girl photographed while tending to her cattle has been misidentified as the French politician Najat Vallaud-Belkacem during her childhood in multiple ‘inspiring’ social media posts.
The posts feature a collage of the little shepherd girl and Vallaud-Belkacem to portray a rags-to-riches story of how the minister rose from a humble background of living a life of a shepherd in Morocco to become a minister with the French government.
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who is from a Moroccan descent, became the first French woman to hold the chair of the Minister Of Education, Higher Education and Research in France in 2014. In June, 2017, Vallaud-Belkacem gave up active politics.
The posts have been captioned as “20 years ago, she was herding sheep in Morocco. Now she is France’s Education Minister. RESPECT!”
On running a reverse image search we found that the young shepherd was originally photographed by UNICEF’s photographer Giacomo Pirozzi in June, 2005. The image was clicked in Morocco and the girl, identified as Fouzia, was 8 years old then. The same image is uploaded to UNICEF’s report here.
BOOM found that the young girl’s image, identified as Vallaud-Belkacem as a child, was present on the internet since as early as 2016. It was first shared by Saturday Magazine, a Nigerian media outlet that published both the images and identified the shepherd as Vallaud-Belkacem in her childhood.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Porter Magazine in 2017 Vallaud-Belkacem clarified that she had left Morocco to live in France with her father when she was four years old.
Excerpts from the interview, “Reports in the French press that I was a child shepherd hold a grain of truth: I was born in Morocco and lived in Bni Chiker, a mountain hamlet in the north. My early childhood was spent as a country girl living with near and extended family, all under one roof. We were quite poor. I helped my grandfather with the goats, drew water from a well, and spent most of the day in flip-flops. I don’t have many specific memories, but I carry with me the feeling of a happy family life. Then, in 1982, when I was four, we came to France to join my father, who had moved here in 1975 to work in construction”
The photo was earlier debunked by Snopes.
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Sk Badiruddin is a Kolkata-based journalist and a fact-checking staff at Boom’s Bangla desk. Earlier, he was a translator for TRID India, news desk assistant of Onkar News, science news contributor for AIR Kolkata and culture writer for a small scale newspaper.
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