Ilhan Omar. Minnesota, April 2017.

What does she do? Ilhan Omar was the first Somali-American Muslim legislator elected to office in the United States. In 2016, she was elected a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. In addition to assuming her role as an elected official, Omar is the Director of Policy and Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network. She is also a Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.


Who is she? Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, but grew up in Baydhabo. The youngest of seven siblings, Omar’s father worked as a teacher trainer, but her mother died young. In 1995, at age 13, her family emigrated to the United States, originally settling in Arlington, Virginia. Omar learned English very quickly—within three months—and moved to Minneapolis with her family after just a year in Arlington. She graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in political science and international studies.


Omar’s professional career began as a Community Nutrition Educator with the University of Minnesota. In 2012, she entered the world of politics, serving as the Campaign Manager for Kari Dziedzic’s reelection campaign for the Minnesota State Senate. After working on several local campaigns, Omar served as the Senior Policy Aide in Andrew Johnson’s office from 2013 to 2015. She made her own run for the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016, winning the general election.


Why watch? Ilhan Omar began her term in the Minnesota House of Representatives on January 3rd, 2017. As of September 2017, Representative Omar has authored 25 bills and co-authored 166 bills, making her an extremely prolific legislator. She is young—just 35 years old—and we expect to see her making a difference on a national level within the next few years.