Ilhan Omar made history last fall as the nation’s first Somali-American legislator, winning a seat in the House of Representatives for state of Minnesota. She is the first Somali-American, Muslim woman in the nation to hold public office at this level.
An experienced policy analyst, Omar is a progressive Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (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.
Omar fell in love with politics at the age of 14, when she acted as her grandfather’s interpreter so he could participate in their local DFL caucus, in the district she now represents. Watching neighbors come together to advocate for change at the grassroots-level inspired her to get involved in the democratic process. Committed to unity and justice, Omar is focused on advancing important issues, including raising the minimum to $15 an hour, closing the opportunity gap, and fighting for environmental justice and racial equity.
After advocating as a student organizer at Edison High School, Omar worked as a community health educator at the University of Minnesota, at Minnesota Department of Education and, most recently, a senior Policy Aide for Minneapolis City Council Member Andrew Johnson.
Omar 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. Omar 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.
Omar’s policy advocacy accomplishments include:
- Supporting working families by winning paid parental leave for city employees. Omar 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.