The election of Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American lawmaker, has been hailed as historic and great achievement for Somali and immigrant community in the United States.
Minnesota voters elected her in a state where the uneasy assimilation of large numbers of Somali refugees became an issue in the US presidential campaign especially by the president-elect Donald Trump.
Ilhan Omar, a 33-year-old former refugee who wears the hijab, ran uncontested for a seat in the legislature of the Midwestern state, home to a sizeable Somali population.
And as he congratulated Ms Omar on her election victory, Dahabshiil’s chief executive officer Abdirashid Duale, said African diaspora communities across the globe are proud of her election, as it will encourage young people who aspire to work and do business anywhere in the world.
“We are proud of her election. It is also a huge show of confidence especially for immigrants who continue to impact positively on society. It is also presents a positive image of the United States, especially Minnesota, as her election confirms that, with hard work and determination, a female immigrant can become legislator,” he said.
“At Dahabshiil, we know the impact we have had on diaspora communities from many parts of Africa in terms of linking them with their relatives back home. Because of the remittances from relatives and friends, many have been able to move to Europe and America and are now engaged in gainful jobs and are in turn also sending money to help their loved ones back home,” Mr Duale said.
Ilhan Omar is the newly elected, Minnesota House Representative for District 60B. She is the first Somali-American, Muslim woman in the nation to hold an office at this level. She is an experienced policy analyst, progressive DFL activist, coalition builder and community educator. Most recently, she served as the Director of Policy Initiatives at Women Organizing Women, where she empowered East African woman to take civic leadership roles in their community. Ilhan lives in the West Bank neighborhood of Minneapolis with her husband and their three children.
Ilhan’s interest in politics began at the age of 14 when she was as an interpreter for her grandfather at local DFL caucuses. Watching neighbors come together to advocate for change at the grassroots level made Ilhan fall in love with the democratic process.
Ilhan’s steadfast belief in the American dream of democracy has driven her to make our district, city, and community a better place for everyone. After advocating as a student organizer at Edison High School, Ilhan worked as a community health educator at the University of Minnesota, Best Buy, at Minnesota Department of Education and was most recently a senior Policy Aide for Minneapolis City Council Member Andrew Johnson. At City Hall, Ilhan witnessed the power of bringing new voices to the table to reflect community values. Through her work as a policy analyst and community advocate, Ilhan has advanced important issues, including support for working families, educational access, environmental protection, and racial equity.
Ilhan’s policy advocacy accomplishments include:
- Supporting working families by winning paid parental leave for city employees. Ilhan also created advisory round tables for businesses run by immigrants, women, and people of color through the Small Business Initiative.
- Banning environmentally harmful containers, requiring commercial recycling, lifting restrictions on urban agriculture, and restricting the use of pollinator-harming pesticides.
- Expanding the use of restorative justice in Minneapolis, passing the Indigenous Peoples Day resolution, and forming a task force to examine the disproportionate impact pollution has on communities of color.
- Securing collaborative urban educator funding from the Minnesota State Legislature to support Augsburg College’s East African Student to Teacher program.
- Promoting awareness and involvement in the electoral process in city, county and statewide races. As co-founder and chair of the New Americans PAC, she encouraged community members to contribute to the political process and informed them of important political issues.
- Passing a Minneapolis city ordinance (the first of its kind) to allow businesses to extend their hours 35 days a year to honor, respect and accommodate Muslims celebrating Ramadan.
Ilhan holds degrees in Business Administration, Political Science and International Studies. She completed a Policy Fellowship at University Of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She has also served on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Legal Rights Center, YMCA, Confederation of Somali Community of MN, and the DFL State Central Committee. She is currently the Vice president of the DFL Feminist Caucus. Ilhan has received multiple accolades and awards, including the Rising Star Award from DFL Women’s Hall of Fame and a Community Leadership Award from the Mshale Newspaper for outstanding leadership.