Interview

Exclusive Interview with H.E. Violette Khairallah Safadi

By Janine Ayoub
August 20, 2019

Violette Khairallah Safadi represents perfectly the Lebanese woman, feminine, strong and independent. The Minister of State for Economic Empowerment of Women and Youth opens up about the challenges facing her job and on her private life.

Violette Safadi welcomes us in her summer residence in Berbara, sober and elegant, just like her. The beautiful villa overlooks the north coast in an atmosphere of serenity. However, she remains nostalgic of her childhood in Achkout and her hikes in the mountains. Her midi dress molds a perfect figure. Her eyes are a mix of determination and distrust, and her smile is rare but warm. She seems to bear her beauty as a burden, fleeing compliments on her physique. Away from the usual labels, she wants her peers to listen to her ideas and take her projects seriously, and that people look beyond her perfect looks, and see the efforts she puts in her projects so they will see the light of day. "Nothing ever came easily to me, I have worked hard to get where I am today, and I am still working hard every day. "

  

A QUIET DETERMINATION

The lives of millions of Lebanese women will be at stake.  A plenary session in Parliament will be devoted exclusively to the study of projects and proposals of laws dealing with the rights of women. "A first in Lebanon and the Middle East," said Violette Safadi in a press conference at the Grand Serail, sponsored by Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The young minister, very discreet since taking office in the government, continues to campaign for the women's cause, and has just launched a revolutionary initiative in a context thats is still very obscure for the Lebanese woman. Several vital laws for the women's cause are pending adoption such as the law against domestic violence, sexual harassment, early marriage, equal pay for men and women, the transmission of Lebanese nationality by mother and others. "I really want to work for women and young people. They represent more than half of society. On March 17, MPs will vote on several laws presented by different parties on many issues related to women. It will be a great victory for the Lebanese woman!” To mark the International Women's Week, March 9-16, the Minister chose to act instead of just complaining. At the Grand Serail, Mohammad Safadi, her husband, who is involved in the details of his wife's mandate, displays a warm smile and unfailing support. "I asked him to blink to give me a sign that the conference is up to his expectations," she says.  "His love gives me stability and strength." Appointing his wife to carry out projects on women's rights and youth was a challenge that only he knew was winning. Today, public opinion is mixed, curious. Who is hiding behind "Mrs. Mohammad Safadi"?

  

PORTRAIT OF A GENERATION 

We can see the former journalist behind this soft and calibrated voice, this critical look and this quiet assurance. The former presenter from LBCI whose outspokenness disconcerts, quickly proved on the screen that she has what it takes when she was only 18 years old. After graduating from the University of Notre-Dame de Louayzé with a degree in International Business Management, she rose to the ranks of LBCI and began her own program that focused on social issues.
A few years later, she joined political journalism as the main news anchor at MTV and presented her political program, Akid Fina. Fate wanted the first guest on her set to be Mohammad Safadi, Minister of the Economy at that time.  An innocuous first meeting. A few months later, her professionalism earned her the job of being a media consultant at the Ministry of the Economy. It was in October 2010. Between 2010 and 2014, she held the position of Information Advisor at the Ministries of Finance and the Economy. In addition to her post as Minister, Violette Safadi is also the Executive Director of Safadi Group Holding and President of the Safadi Cultural Center, the NGO Akid fina sawa and the Safadi Cultural Association. A typical day ? More than 18 hours of work a day. Moreover, since the age of 17, the young woman had the habit of juggling between two or three jobs. To finance her university studies, Violette obtained a part-time job at her university to join the social assistance program. But apart from public affairs and long days of work, the young woman does not lose sight of the essential. She finds refuge with her family, her husband and two children of a first marriage, Safadi gave birth to Matteo 12 years old and Jean Pierre 15 years old.  She does not forget the very faithful Lili, her Pomeranian Lulu who is an important part of her life, and her small circle of friends who has resisted the many chapters of her life. Her relatives testify that Violette has not changed, despite the dreams realized. Although the nature of her work has changed, her determination and commitment have remained intact. If her meeting with former Minister Mohammad Safadi is due to chance, their love story is the fruit of time. Their relationship began years after of working together; "I have always felt an affinity for Mohammad and a certain ease at his side. He has always been an incomparable support in a respectful way. At the time, I did not understand. Everything became very intense before we realized it.” After a long reflection, the unlikely couple gets married in 2015, despite their 35 years of difference.  "I understand that our story is not unanimous, she admits. If you had to check the boxes of conventional couples, ours would win none. Difference in age, religion, backgrounds ... " From the outside, criticism is easy. Once inside the family cocoon, we discover a happy young mother and an attentive, present and affectionate husband. Would she become a minister without her husband?  Violet is sincere. " Right here right now ? Of course not, but in the distant future, yes," she admits without false modesty. She holds a Certificate in Leadership, Negotiations and Decision Making from Harvard University, and is currently preparing her Master's Degree in International Relations and Diplomacy at NDU. Passionate about history, she cultivates this ministerial image in the shadows, the time to prove herself. And, without wanting to put too much pressure on her, millions of women rely on her on March 17, 2020. Her course of action is all in one sentence: "Life has offered me many gifts, it's time for me to give back. "

 

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