Women’s History Month: Citizen Ilhan Omar

by IRENE FOWLER, Contributor

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity.

“March is also Women’s History Month in Australia, the United States, and the United
Kingdom and is a time to celebrate and recognize the amazing contributions of women
throughout history…”  – Google

Ilhan Omar is a Somali-American woman born in the capital city, Mogadishu, in the horn of Africa. A place she called home for her first eleven years. The quintessential African character-forming values, which she would have imbibed from infancy and which will follow her to her grave include;  familial and communal cohesion, reverence for elders, open-hospitality, hard work and a zeal for self-improvement.

Central to Omar’s guiding philosophy would be reflections on Africa and images of the daily toil of its entrepreneurial and irrepressible populations. The unconquerable spirit which refuses to give up despite debilitating odds, would no doubt be a factor in propelling her to reach her personal and career goals.

Omar was raised in Baidoa, a city in a semi-arid region of Somalia, with a population of under 400,000. She would have been all too familiar with the myriad villages and hamlets, set on a sea of reddish-dark clay, surrounded by the untamed wilderness of Africa’s flora and fauna, and bathed in the yearlong splendour of the African sun.  Places which are more often than not, deemed abject, as they are bereft of vestiges of urban sophistication or chic, and lack most modern amenities or conveniences.

To read the rest of Irene’s tribute to Ilhan Omar,
and her poem“Women: More not Less” click:

These locales are characterized by calm and stillness, appearing to be lost in time. Moreover, the generality of the guileless inhabitants, wear their hearts on their sleeves and possess compassion in spades. They would share their last meal with a total stranger and protect them against peril.

Omar, a member of the U.S.Democratic Party, was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016. In 2018 she became the first naturalized citizen from Africa to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She is an advocate for a living wage, affordable housing, healthcare and student loan forgiveness.

Her orientation towards people-empowerment is no doubt wedded to her strong African roots. Her background and strong views have earned her the wrath and rancour of certain media organizations and the Republican Party leadership. She has distinguished herself as  an African, a Woman, a Muslim and a Refugee. These are all categories of humanity, deemed loathsome by the disgraced former U.S. President – Donald Trump. During his presidential tenure he was so craven and depraved, as to encourage death threats against her.

Such was Trump’s obsession with bringing about Omar’s destruction, that this dainty, diminutive, political colossus from a dusty city in a small African country was living ‘rent free’ in the head of the U.S. potentate at the loftiest address on the planet. By the by, she arrived via the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, where she lived for four years, after fleeing war in Somalia with her family.

Obviously her strength of character and determination to succeed were pivotal to her survival and growth. Jason Burke, Africa correspondent for The Guardian, after interviewing Omar, wrote an article entitled, “The lesson is to be hopeful” – The following excerpt is from the aforementioned piece. “The Utango camp was isolated and rudimentary with limited sanitation. Omar collected firewood and water for the family and has described how she enviously watched similar-aged children going to school in uniforms, and asking her father if she could resume her education.”

Omar arrived in the U.S. under a refugee resettlement programme. She has experienced life at the bottom of the rung, and has had to pull herself up by dint of hard work, discipline and sheer bloody-mindedness. Her background was bleak and laden with dark portents for her future. The vicissitudes and vagaries of life as an African refugee outside her native country,  presented her with few silver linings.

Citizen Omar is a committed and passionate patriot of her adopted country.  She was not a beneficiary of a golden parachute, as were some of her most vitriolic critics and detractors serving in the U.S. Congress. She is an exemplar of a woman’s heroic struggle and triumph through tragedy.

Women: More Not Less

 by Irene Fowler

Women: co-heirs of the planet, sovereign souls, sentient beings
Sages and healers, of their inner and outer earthly realms
Deep wells of tenacity, courage and excellence
Towers and pillars of strength and resilience
In myriad ways, sung and unsung, heroic contributors to global advancements
Tried, tested, tired, tied hands, hoist the banner of hope
Women of the world; different faces, diverse battles, one imperative, timeless, cosmic struggle
Legatees of the freedom torch, fiercely, tirelessly, fight on for equality
Echoes of crusades, conflicts, travel through the annals of history
The scars of warfare, equal, to badges of honour and dedication
To be more, not less.

© 2022 by Irene Fowler

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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