Ilhan Omar

The past decade has seen a significant raise in the number of forcibly displaced people. As per the latest report by the UNHCR, in 2007, this population numbered 42.7 million; over the last 10 years, this figure has increased by over 50 per cent. By the end of 2017, 68.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, or generalized violence. Out of this more than two  third came from a total of just 5 countries: Syrian Arab Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.
The identities of refugees often remain in a flux. They feel like outsiders for long even after getting asylum. The shifting of refugees into new social, cultural and economical environments can be disruptive to their identity and their sense of ‘Heimat’ or belonging. Most often, this comes with joblessness or a total overhaul of their existing profession leading to a loss of their identity as they formerly understood it. An artisan or tailor from Syria or Sudan may need to work as a daily wage unskilled worker in a new city to feed his family. In addition to the traumatic loss of identity, this also leads to the loss of historic art and craft forms.   ‘refugee’ becomes a lifelong burden to bear.
They have shown all that it is possible to lead a prosperous life even after having been through forced displacement. One such example is the newly appointed US Congresswomen, Ilhan Omar. She made history by becoming the first ever        Somalian – American Muslim (one of only 2 Muslims to be elected) refugee to be elected to Congress. She also made history by wearing the hijab on the floor of the house of representatives, lifting a 181-year-old ban on any kind of head covering on the house floor. She was later ceremonially sworn in on the Quran with Islamic prayer beads in her hands.
Ilhan got interested in politics when she was 14 years old. She was working as an interpreter for her grandfather at local DFL (a local political party in Minnesota) Caucuses,. When she saw her neighbors coming together to advocate for change at the grassroots level, she fell in love with with the democratic process. As a student at Edison High School in Minneapolis, she became an organizer and has been a coalition builder since then. She worked as a community educator at the University of Minnesota and has been a devoted progressive activist in the DFL party for many years. Before she ran for office, Ilhan was a Humphrey Policy Fellow and served as a senior Policy Aide for a Minneapolis City Council Member.
Born in Somali, Omar had to flee the war-hit nation in 1995 when she was only 8. She spent years at refugees camps in Kenya before her family got asylum in the United States. They settled in in Virginia and then eventually moved to Minneapolis. She stands as a role model and beacon of hope for refugees, especially women of marginalised communities including the makers working at our all women factory in Delhi. The makers selected her as their ‘Heimat human’.
To commemorate her role in inspiring the makers, we are sending her a custom Heimat Hijab Super Cowl Dress.
Ilhan Omar gives an acceptance speech on election night in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


The maker’s process

At our all women factory in Delhi we follow a systems driven approach to challenge the gender disparity in the garment industry in India. We have many makers who have migrated to Delhi from villages in UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and other states in search for work and livelihood. Ilhan Omar is an inspiration to many young girls who have to build a life for themselves from scratch in an alien city. More so, they have to do this while fighting traditional patterns of a society that does not encourage women to live a life of purpose where they can achieve their highest potential. Many of our makers fight to become independent and earn a living for themselves, where they may be expected to marry young and take care of household chores. Ilhan inspires many such young girls.

One such maker in our factory is Kahekesha Alvi. Ever since she learnt about Ilhan’s journey, she has watched several of her speeches and scrolled through google images.
The process of cutting and sewing this dress for Ilhan has given Kahkesha a feeling of hope and possibility that there are limited barriers and ceilings to achieve great success in one’s lifetime. We are grateful to Ilhan for living her life unapologetically and in doing so, inspiring millions of other girls around the world.