Bushra Amiwala is a Pakistani-American college student, at DePaul University, and as of 2020, she is the youngest Muslim elected official in the United States.
Bushra Amiwala was a Democratic candidate for the Cook County Board of Commissioners in the 2018 Illinois Primary Election. She lost to the then 16-year incumbent Larry Suffredin in the Democratic primary election on March 20th, 2018. Suffredin then encouraged Amiwala to run for public office shortly after when she announced her candidacy for D73.5 Board of Education and was elected in April 2019. Amiwala also became the first Muslim person elected to the board of education seat in her district.
Bushra Amiwala was born in Chicago and lived in the Rogers Park area until she was 10. Her family then moved to Skokie, where she graduated from Niles North High School. She began her political career as an intern for Republican senator Mark Kirk and decided to run her own campaign for the Cook County Board of Commissioners as a college freshman. She came in second in the Democratic primaries, earning 14,988 votes, a total of 30.6% of the vote in a three-person race.
Bushra Amiwala began an annual service project on her birthday, and in 2018 made and distributed hundreds of care packages in the Chicagoland area with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who endorsed her campaign. Amiwala was named one of Glamour Magazine’s 2018 College Women of the Year.
“I’m not a student that went to Harvard University or anything. My parents aren’t like these prestigious lawyers and doctors but truly am someone who came from an immigrant family, was born and raised here, go to a local university,” she explained. “If I could do it, you can do it as well.”
Bushra Amiwala joined the Skokie, Illinois school board at age 21 while she was in her third year at DePaul University. She faces unique challenges as a Muslim woman in politics.
“Being a Muslim woman that wears a hijab, I tend to be reduced to my identity, which is a big part of who I am, but with that, there’s the additional expectation that I’m not just representing my constituents in my district, but I’m representing almost Muslim women as a whole at a national level,” she explained. “And being of a younger age, that is a little more difficult because that’s something I didn’t know I was signing up for.”
New organizations like Run for Something help support young people like Amiwala who run in local elections with seed money, organization building, and access to trainings.