IIhan Omar: There is a time women in Hijab struggled in politics, not any more

Ilhan Omar won election to the US House of Representatives in November 2018 [Photo: EPA]

WASHINGTON - Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has lauded dozens of Somali women writing history in far lands in the US, with a number of them getting elected in various states, something which appeared impossible in the recent past when they fought hard to thrive in competitive politics.

Midterm elections on Tuesday whose outcome is yet to be concluded showed at least eight Somali-American women had secured strategic seats across the country which automatically elevates their status in American politics where they were subordinates a few years ago.

Ms. Omar, who was first elected in 2018, successfully won her third term in office and will be representing Minnesota's Fifth Congregational District where her political career was shaped. Her profile rose steadily when she openly criticized former President Donald Trump, whose administration was "scandalous".

Zaynab Mohamed was elected to Minnesota state as a lawmaker, becoming the guest woman of Somali origin to write this history. On the other hand, Hodan Hassan defended her seat in the state House of Representatives.

Other Somali American women running for offices in Minnesota were victorious, including Fathia Feerayarre, who won a seat on the Minneapolis Public Schools board. In Dakota, Hamida Dakane became the first Somali woman to be elected to the state's House.

Records show Dakane was born in Northeastern Kenya and will be representing Fargo's 10th District justly barely a decade after moving to America. Deqa Dhalac from Maine, who made history last year as the first Somali American mayor of a U.S. city, South Portland, has now been elected to the state House just like Mana Abdi.

In Ohio, Munira Abdullahi and Ismail Mohamed, a man, won seats in the state House. Minnesota and Ohio have among the largest Somali American populations in the U.S. Ilhan Omar was quick to note the tremendous performance of her compatriots in various races across the country.

"There was a time when we believed that women with a hijab could not get elected," she said. "Tonight, Minnesota is electing three new women who are wearing hijab. That shows if you trust in yourself, if your people trust you, stand with you, everything is possible."

On her part, Mohamed said she's expecting more Somali Americans to join politics and shape the future of America.

"I'm very happy with this victory tonight, thank God," she told VOA Somali. "This is a victory for me, for my family, and for the Somali people. God willing, a lot of men and women will follow me and will come through."

Shukri Olow, who lost a state House seat outside Seattle, Washington, told VOA Somali that she was inspired to run by the women before her, including Omar, Hassan, and Dhalac. In an interview with VOA Somali, Dhalac confirmed that when she visited Washington in 2018, Olow asked her questions about running for office.

"She said she wanted to run for the open seats in her area or seats that will be open in the future in Washington state," Dhalac recounted. "I encouraged her to do it. Many women say we will do this, we will do this tomorrow, we will do this next year. I said to her, if you want to compete, just do it."

In sharp contrast, back at home in Somalia, women are struggling to break patriarchal jinxes which have dominated the country's politics. Most women in Somalia politics started climbing the ladder following special emphasis on affirmative action seats in the Lower House and the Senate.

But there are a few who have managed to break the traditions and shine in politics. However, the number is insignificant to push the agenda of mainstreaming women into politics, an ideology that various stakeholders have been pushing for while enhancing reforms in the country's laws.


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