Minnesota legislator Ilhan Omar is on the cover of Time magazine and listed alongside 45 other women who have broken barriers to change the world.
In the Sept. 18 issue that hits newsstands Friday, Omar, who is the first Somali-American Muslim to become a legislator, is featured among 46 women in Firsts — a multimedia special project that includes 12 different covers that feature 12 different women.
In her Time essay, the Minneapolis DFLer talks about her life in Somalia and a Kenya refugee camp, where being black and Muslim didn’t separate her from others. That changed when she came to the U.S.
“As someone who grew up never really having to feel less than, it’s a hard reality to wake up to when you’re 12,” she said in her essay. “I had to figure out what it meant to be a bridge builder — what it meant to forge relationships that really never existed becomes the back story to how I ended up where I am.”
Gender and even her looks became an issue, she said.
“People were excited to vote for me because I was pretty,” she said. “To the Muslim and Somali communities, my gender was a problem because politics is supposed to be a man’s role,” she wrote. “Then there was the typical stuff that women candidates deal with — as a mother, how irresponsible I must be to want to run and devote as much time out of the home. No one ever asks the male candidates … how they expect to balance family life.”
Omar pushed the negative things aside. “I kept thinking, regardless of whether we win or lose, this will shift the narrative about what is possible,” she said.
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788