Ilhan Omar, public organizer and social activist, who announced her arrival to the world in 2016 when she won and became first Somali-American Muslim legislator in the United States. She is on a battle to end child relational unions in her province of Minnesota.
Omar moved from Somali to the U.S. as an outcast at 13 years old. At only 34-years of age, Omar won a seat as a legislator in the Minnesota House of Assembly speaking to House District 60B.
She is dynamic and depicts herself as an intersectional women’s activist, presently filling in as the Director of Policy and Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network. Without efforts by/from women like Omar on women empowerment, gender equality, societies will not be able to achieve full development potential. A piece of that battle is stopping childhood marriages in her state.
According to Professor Nicholas Syrett, the author of American Child Bride: A History of Minors and Marriage in the United States, “child marriage has a long and vibrant history in the United States”.
In Minnesota, children can get married at the age of 16.
Taking to her Twitter account, Ilhan, discussed her bill which sought to increase the legal marriage age to 18.
Also noteworthy, in MN my bill to increase the legal marriage age to 18 never received a hearing because some of the leaders were afraid of the backlash from the church https://t.co/ZJqCxAGMUF
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) May 31, 2018
In Omar’s home country, Somalia, the legal age for marriage in the country is 18 for both males and females, though girls can get married at 16 with parental consent. According to statistics by UNICEF in 2017, 8% of girls were married by the age of 15 and 45% by the age 18 in the country. Somalia has one of the world’s highest rates of female genital cutting, illustrating the persistence of patriarchal norms around women’s sexuality at 98%, child marriage largely driven by cultural norms.
We cheer Ilhan on and hope she continues to push for the elimination of child marriage.