New mayor Cllr Rakhia Ismail with Hawo Lulu
MEMBERS of the Somali community gathered to congratulate the country’s first Somali-born female mayor at a celebratory meal.
Dozens of women gathered at the Bemerton estate, off Caledonian Road, on Wednesday to celebrate Cllr Rakhia Ismail whose story has been shared thousands of times online through social media.
Cllr Ismail, who represents Holloway for the Labour Party, was picked by her colleagues to be mayor in May. Her role is a ceremonial one but sees her thrust into the limelight by representing the borough at numerous events.
Bemerton residents Ruth Skinner and Mana Abbas
She told the Tribune: “It’s hard to describe with words how it feels to be celebrated. There’s something very awesome about this.”
Cllr Ismail recently announced that she will run to be Labour’s candidate for North East London in the Assembly elections next year.
She needs the backing of the Constituency Labour Party before her name can go on the ballot.
Cllr Ismail said: “I think it’s about time that I should move on and ensure the Somali community has a voice outside local councils.
Members of Islington’s Somali community turned out to congratulate Cllr Ismail at the Bemerton Estate, off Caledonian Road
“We don’t have any mainstream politicians in England representing us. I think, with my experience, I would bring a lot to London and national politics.”
She said her priorities would be addressing knife crime, school exclusions and mental illness.
She added: “I don’t think current politicians, regardless of their party, are really addressing this.
“I am grassroots and I know what happens in community centres, youth centres and the middle of estates. We have the knowledge and the understanding and the compassion to deal with such issues.”
Hana Hussein, from Somali Speakers Women’s Group, who helped prepare the feast to honour Cllr Ismail said: “It’s so good she’s running for the London Assembly. We want her to take our voice there for us when it comes to issues such as gangs and knives.
“She will represent us. We raise our voices to her and she takes it for us.”