Growing up in the Puget Sound, Hamdi Mohamed’s parents both worked in transportation. Her father was a truck driver and her mother worked at SeaTac airport where she was part of a community of workers —airplane cabin cleaners, wheelchair pushers, and baggage handlers. Together, they kept thousands of people moving each day.
After graduating from the University of Washington, Hamdi served as a ReWA employment case manager. She said, “As someone who came to the U.S. as a refugee, it was always an incredible feeling to have the opportunity to help improve the lives of immigrant and refugee residents.”
Later, she returned to the University of Washington for a Master’s degree in Policy Studies and a Global Business Certificate from Harvard Business School. Shifting her career into politics, Hamdi worked in U.S. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s office and the King County Executive Office of Equity and Social Justice, where—among other things—she helped put in place ordinances to ensure immigrants and refugees have access to health care as well as protections from local law enforcement asking immigration status when residents report a crime—making all of us safer.
Last December, Hamdi was elected to the Port of Seattle and serves as the first Black woman Commissioner. Soon after, she was appointed by the mayor as the Director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs for the City of Seattle. In her own words, she says:
“As a former refugee, I have experienced the effects of governmental policy on immigrants and refugees firsthand. Witnessing the impact of decisions made by foreign governments has imparted upon me a desire to gain expertise in the areas of organizational development, decision-making, and public policy.
Growing up, my mother often told me about a Somali proverb: ‘to be without a woman is to be without life’ (in original Somali: Naag laan, waa naf laan). To me, this is like saying that water is life—women give life and support to every person. And yet despite that, for women, our work has historically been uncelebrated, unnoticed, undervalued, and, at times, even painted in a negative light.
On International Women’s Day, I think about the many Black women in U.S. History who fought for women’s rights, the suffrage movement, and civil rights, but have been left out of narratives about what our country stands for. These leaders continue to inspire me today, such as Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Shirley Chisholm, Fannie Lou Hamer, Mary Church Terrel, and more.
As I reflect on International Women’s Day, I reflect on the persistent gender-based disparities in our country. In 2018, on average, a woman working full time earned 81.6 cents for every dollar a man working full time earned. In 2018, women’s median annual earnings were $9,766 less than men’s, according to the most recent available data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
To be without a woman is to be without life. We must extend this powerful mantra to all women around the world. Women of the world want and deserve an equal pay, opportunity, and future.”