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Voteworthy Trailblazers

Jan/12/2023 / by Nupur Bhatnagar

A host of enterprising South Asian women toss their hat in the electoral ring

With election campaigns coming into the last lap, South Asian women who are running are planning how to get push their agenda if they win. From education to healthcare, the issues they cover are myriad and important for American democracy.

Anita Somani

Image credits: Anita Somani on Facebook

Running for election to the Ohio House of Representatives to represent District 11, Anita Somani (Democrat) is a leader in the Columbus OBGYN community. The founding member of the Physicians Action Network, she has dedicated her career towards providing women with individualized care, trying to ensuring them a healthy and safe community to live in. She hopes her health care expertise will bring a valuable perspective to the state house.

I have been worried that our state has gone down the wrong path in regard to health care and increasing maternal and infant mortality, more abortion restrictions, and marginalizing communities. These laws hurt our economy by affecting a woman’s ability to work and limiting her economic potential.” – Dr Anita Somani

The Hon’ble Judge Juli Mathews

Image credits: Judge Juli Mathew on Facebook

The Hon’ble Judge Juli Mathews (Democrat), currently presiding over Number 3 court of the Fort Bend County Court at Law in Texas is running for re-election this year. An immigrant from Kerala, India, and raised in Philadelphia, she is the first Asian American woman to be elected in the Fort Bend County, and the first Indian American woman to be elected to the bench in the U.S.

Mathews founded the Juvenile Intervention and Mental Health Court (JIMH) to service youth with mental health issues in the Fort Bend County Juvenile Justice System in January 2021 with a special focus on rehabilitation and reducing recidivism.

A wife and mother of 3 girls, Mathews is fluent in Malayalam and English, and is known for her activism.

Nabilah Islam

Image credits: Nabilah Islam on Faceook

A daughter of working-class Bangladeshi immigrant parents, Nabilah Islam is the Democratic nominee for District 7 of the Georgia State Senate. Watching her family suffer at the hands of the broken health care system when her mother injured herself while working as an order puller drove Islam to be a staunch advocate for quality health care access and Medicaid expansion.

Islam is a strong opponent of the Supreme Court ruling overturning of Roe V. Wade, thus giving right-wing legislatures the power to enact complete bans against abortions.

“When I’m in the legislature, I’ll never back down from protecting the right to an abortion – and I’ll sponsor legislation to overturn the Republican abortion ban and enshrine the right to birth control into law”- Nabilah Islam.

Salimah Jasani

Image credits: Salimah Jasani on Facebook

Jasani, who is contesting for one of the two elected seats on the Baltimore Elected Board of Commissioners, is a former Baltimore City Public Schools special education teacher, volunteer, and education consultant. She believes that inequity in education based on disability status, race, gender identity, language proficiency among other markers is the key issue that needs to be dealt with.

The immigrant from India who made Baltimore her home has worked at the Maryland State Department of Education as part of a partnership with Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education. She was also a policy fellow in the office of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Padma Kuppa

Image credits: Padma Kuppa on Facebook

The first Indian immigrant to serve in the Michigan Legislature, Kuppa is contesting for Michigan Senate District 9 in the 2022 election. A mechanical engineer who has worked with corporations like Chrysler and Ally Financial, Kuppa moved to politics in 2018 when she was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives. She is the founding member of Troy-area Interfaith Group as well as the local Bharatiya Temple’s Outreach Committee. A member of the Progressive Women’s Caucus and as the inaugural co-chair of the Bipartisan Women’s Council, Kuppa is a trailblazer for women in STEM.

Anna Thomas

Image credits: Anna Thomas on Facebook

Thomas, who running to represent District 137 in the Pennsylvania State House, sees stronger education policy as fundamental to greater economic opportunities. Her focus is on expanding access to vocational training and keeping tuition affordable.

Growing up in a family of immigrants from Malaysia and India and observing the dearth of scientists in government, she earned a B.A. in chemistry from Wellesley College in her pursuit of becoming a science-literate public servant. She also has a master’s in public administration from the University of Pennsylvania.


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