We Celebrate The Success of Muslim American Women in US Primaries – Hibaaq Osman

Posted on: August 15, 2018, by :
Ilhan Omar, pictured in 2016. Photo: Lorie Shaull, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Muslim American women who this week won congressional primaries in the United States are an inspiration to women’s rights activists in Africa and the Middle East. We send our congratulations to Ilhan Omar in Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan, who could become the first Muslim women elected to congress later this year.

Wherever you are in the world, if governments and policies are to be sensitive to the needs and experiences of women and minorities, politics must be representative. Minorities – and minority women in particular – know that we cannot rely on others to speak for us. We can and we must speak for ourselves.

As a Somali myself, the story of Ilhan is close to my heart, and so very inspiring. To go from a being a child refugee to the brink of Congress – at such a young age – speaks so much for her character. More than that, it demonstrates the potential that refugees have when they are treated with respect, and when they are able to grasp opportunities. Throughout history Somalis have had to be resilient, in recent years tragedy has overshadowed the country and the remarkable strength of Somali women. Now we have an inspirational modern role model. Ilhan is a wonderful example of the ingenuity and endurance of the Somali spirit, and the energy and confidence of America.

The success of candidates Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib inspires us as activists working to for women’s rights and increasing women’s participation in Africa and the Middle East. Remarkably, the membership of the United States Congress has a similar gender ratio to equivalents in the Arab region – 18 percent of parliamentarians in the region are women, compared to 19.4 percent in Congress. There is much work to do for legislatures across the globe to look more like their electorates.

People like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib – and candidates like Hodan Hassan and Mohamud Noor who won primaries for the Minnesota state legislature – are making important strides for truly representative democracy. We recognize their success and take inspiration from it.

  • Hibaaq Osman, Founder and CEO, Karama