History was made as former Dadaab refugee Ilhan Omar became one of two Muslim women elected to American Congress.
Omar and her family fled Somali’s Civil War when she was just eight years old.
She spent four years at Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.
In 1997 they settled in Minnesota where there was a sizable Somali population.
Decision to run
In a past interview, the 37-year-old said,
“I decided to run because I was one of many people I knew, who already wanted to demonstrate what representative democracies are supposed to be.”
Ilhan added that she decided to run for the position after former Congressman Keith Ellison gave up his seat for the attorney general’s position.
Ilhan also made history after she won a seat in the state’s legislature in 2016.
She became the first Somali American lawmaker in the country.
Before that, she worked as a community organizer for city leaders in Minneapolis.
She also served as a leader for the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), an African American Civil rights group.
She supports free college education, housing for all, criminal justice reform and universal health care system.
Ilhan Omar opposes Trump’s restrictive immigration policies and wants to abolish US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which has conducted deportation raids.
Rashida Tlaib also joins Ilhan as the other first Muslim woman to be elected to Congress.
Born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrants, she is the eldest of 14 children.
In an interview for a US television, she stated, ” I’ve never been one to stand on the sidelines.”
Rashida became the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan state legislature in 2008.
She emerged the winner of a Democratic primary for a seat vacated by John Conyers.
Conyers stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations and failing health.
Her election became a formality as there was no republican challenger in the race.
Rashida has advocated for universal health care, union protections and tuition-free college education.
According to the Center of American Women and Politics, this year, 107 women hold seats in the US Congress.
This comprises 20.0% of the 535 members.
23% serve in the Senate and 19.3% serve in the US House of Representatives.
African Americans represent just under 10% of the entire US Congress.
3 serve in the Senate and 48 in the House of Representatives.