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Two Somalia women secured historic wins in two US city council elections

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

MINNESOTA - The United States of America continues to be the epicenter of multiracial opportunities, a sharp paradigm shift from the traditional dominance of white people.

For a long time, the US battled racial segregation, rejection, and brutality targeting people of color, a jinx that is now slowly being eroded.

Already having elected first African-American President in Barack Obama, the radical changes in US electoral system continues to take shape ahead of 2020 polls.

On Wednesday, two young Somali-born ladies won City Council polls, becoming first people from the war-torn nation to be elected to local parliament in the US.

Safiya Khalid, 23, was elected to Lewiston City Council, beating her closest challenger from Democratic Party. She managed 70 percent of votes.

Having been admitted to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, Safiya's family moved to Maine, a state dominated by the whites at a tender age.

“I worked really hard. I knocked on thousands of doors. That’s what paid off,” Khalid told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday.

The youthful lady also becomes the first Muslim in Maine to be elected to a local assembly. According to her, pushing for a bigger and multiracial representation informed her decision.

“There’s been a push for us to have bigger representation in office in the towns,” she said. “That’s where the decisions are made. If we’re not in those offices, then someone is going to make the decisions for us.”

Khalid is one of the refugees who got a chance to go through the US' public education system, which she says shaped her knowledge immensely.

“When I came here, I didn’t know how to write my name or speak any word of English. I am who I am because of public education. Our children deserve the highest-quality education,” she said.

Miles away at St Louis Park Council in Minnesota, Nadia Mohamed also 23, was selected to the council as the first Muslim and US-Somali to be awarded the opportunity to represent the local population.

“I realized how much my voice is needed,” Nadia said Wednesday morning after making history, winning Miller’s at-large seat to become the City’s Council’s first Muslim and first Somali member.

Nadia won easily with 63 percent of the first-choice votes in the race to replace Miller. It sent a message that St. Louis Park is a place to “be inclusive in the day-to-day decision-making levels in the city,” she said.

Her victory, however, did not come as a surprise given the large Muslim population in Minnesota. She acknowledges difficulties in campaigning especially given her African roots.

"It was also a challenge to learn how to ask for support and votes “coming from a culture where asking isn’t the norm," she told reporters.

But she found that knocking on doors and listening to prospective constituents’ issues helped her get to know her community on a deeper level.

The two latest achievements of Somali-born women in the diaspora adds to the expanding list of refugees re-writing history in the US and elsewhere in recent years.

Ilhan Omar, better known as President Donald Trump's consistent critic, became the first Somali-American and Muslim to be elected to the US Congress in 2016.

The young Democrat has often attracted the fury of Trump, who once asked her to 'go back and rebuild her collapsing country'. She supports social democrat Bernie Sanders's 2020 White House bid.

In Canada Ahmed Hussein successfully defended his seat on the Liberal party during October polls. He serves in the cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as an Immigration boss.

In the United Kingdom, Magid Magid, a former Lord Mayor of Sheffield, was in April elected to the European Parliament. He was born in 1989.

Somali is facing a host of internal political challenges that escalated after the assassination of Said Barre in 1991. In recent years, the country's internal systems have been ruined by the Al-Shabaab insurgency.

The group has been waging attacks against civilians and UN peacekeeping troops, killings dozens in the process. Somali professionals are keen to rebuild the country.


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