Fadela Amara

Fadela Amara, (born Fatiha Amara, April 25, 1964) is a French feminist and politician, who began her political life as an advocate for women in the impoverished banlieues. She was the Secretary of State for Urban Policies in the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) government of French Prime Minister François Fillon. She is a former president of the organisation Ni Putes Ni Soumises.

Amara was born to Algerian Kabyle parents in an emergency housing district of Clermont-Ferrand, Puy-de-Dôme, which she later described as a shanty-town. The neighbourhood was mostly populated by immigrants from the Maghreb. She was born into a family of eleven children, having four sisters and six brothers. Her father worked as a labourer during the week and in the markets on the weekend, while her mother was a housewife. Despite not being well off himself, Amara’s father sent money back to his home village in Algeria and kept some more aside for the poor of the district[citation needed]. Regarding the situation there for women she said, „daughters, sisters, cousins, female neighbours must either act like submissive but virtuous vassals, or be treated like cheap whores. Any sign of independence or femininity is viewed as a challenge and provocation.“ Although she wished to study literature, she ended up taking a qualification as an office employee.

In 1978, when Amara was 14, her brother Malik was run down by a drunk driver. He died of his injuries after a few hours. Amara was appalled to see the police side with the driver at the scene of the incident.

Amara participated in the first demonstration aimed at encouraging electoral registration among the young people of Clermont-Ferrand. When she was 16 years old, the municipal authorities decided to demolish the district she lived in. She went from door to door canvassing support for its retention. At the age of 18, she established the Association des femmes pour l’échange intercommunautaire (Women’s Association for Intercommunal Exchange), a fledgling example of Islamic feminism, with the aim of developing women’s autonomy and individual thought through meetings between neighbouring communities.

In 1983 she took part in a mass demonstration of the Beurs (French of North African origin), and from 1986 on she was an activist within the civil rights organisation SOS Racisme. In 2000 she was elected president of the Fédération nationale des maisons des potes (FNMP). In 1989 she established the Women’s Commission, whose principal objective was to investigate the position of women in urban and suburban areas and register the demands of those communities.

In March 2001 she was elected on the Socialist Party list at the municipal council of Clermont-Ferrand.

After the 2002 murder of 17-year-old Sohanne Benziane, she organised a march from the murder site beneath a banner declaring the women Ni Putes, Ni Soumises (neither whores, nor submissives). The motto stuck and became the name of the resulting organisation, of which she became the president.

In 2002 she organised a „women’s parliament“ in the Sorbonne with over 250 participants, drew up a petition which gained almost 20,000 signatures, and organised a nationwide tour of Ni Putes Ni Soumises, which finished in Paris on 8 March 2003.

Despite being a Muslim, Amara was active in supporting the expulsion from French secondary schools of young Muslim women who wear the hijab, and in supporting the 2003 law on this question.

On June 19, 2007, although still a member and a municipal councillor of the Socialist Party, she was appointed Secretary of State for Urban Policies in the 2nd UMP government of French Prime Minister François Fillon. She reported to Housing Minister Christine Boutin. She left the government in 2010, and was named France’s inspector general for social affairs in January 2011.