Somali American politician Ilhan Omar is the Director of Policy and Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network. In 2016, she was elected a Democratic Farmer Labor Party legislator in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Prior to emigrating to the US, Omar spent time with her family in a refugee camp in Kenya until she was 14 years old. Let’s follow her amazing journey.
Omar emigrated from Somalia to the US with her family, where she graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in political science and international studies. Since 2015, Omar has served as the Director of Policy & Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network.
Additional awards and achievements include:
- 2014 Rising Star in the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party’s Women’s Hall of Fame.
- 2015 Community Leadership Award at the African Awards by Mshale, an African immigrant media outlet
Omar’s victorious election to the House of Representatives came at a time when people of the Muslim faith were living in a difficult political climate. Too often, Muslims endured an onslaught of threats and hate crimes. Her political involvement was met with unfavorable opposition and resistance. In one incident, she received a severe concussion following a beating that ensued in the midst of a frenzied caucus session that erupted in violence.
Additionally, on the heels of the initial primary election, Omar was accused of immigration fraud. As noted above, she went on to win the full election becoming the first Somali-American lawmaker in US history. She says, “This really was a victory for that 8-year-old in that refugee camp. This was a victory for every person that’s been told they have limits on their dreams.”
Her journey from Somali civil war, to Kenyan refugee, to student, to lawmaker inspires women all over the world and gives unending hope to a new generation of girls and women. Proudly garbed in her hijab, Omar takes her place among the other lawmakers on the floor of the House of Representatives. Already a trailblazer, Omar has definitive plans to provide future opportunities for women. Her plans include helping women entrepreneurs find success. She also has plans to strive for criminal justice reform and to help guarantee clean air and water for the present and the future. Omar’s political platform is built on equity for all and an economy that works for all citizens. Keep your eye on this powerful woman.
Omar remains steadfast in the face of derisive remarks made by the current President-elect and aimed at the Islamic faith and culture. Ilhan has faced numerous hindrances and says it is important that someone stand up in the face of opposition so that future generations can continue to dream. Her victory makes a permanent and inspirational mark on US history. Moreover, it tells women of all faiths and cultures that nothing need stand in the way of their dreams and goals. Courageous, bold, and unstoppable, this trailblazing woman sets the bar high for all of us. She’s living proof that humble beginnings can pave the way to a bright future.