MuslimGirl had the chance to speak with Ruwa Romman, who recently won her 2022 election bid for Georgia State Legislature, making her the first Muslim woman and Palestinian to be elected in Georgia.
Muslim Girl: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What inspired you to run for public office?
Ruwa Romman: My name is Ruwa Romman and I’m the new Representative-Elect for Georgia State House District 97. My political journey is a long one. The first campaign I ever worked on was the Michelle Nunn/Jason Carter campaign. At the time, their teams had made it a priority to reach out to college campuses. They came to Oglethorpe University and offered to train us in political work. That was the first time I ever phone banked or even knocked on doors, but it showed me that we could change our state one door at a time.
After I graduated from Oglethorpe University, I chose to go into the non-profit and civil rights space. Most of my work for those years was nonpartisan in nature. My focus was protecting my Muslim community’s civil rights through my work at CAIR Georgia and empowering my Muslim community to become more civically engaged through the Georgia Muslim Voter Project.
Although much of my work has been political or politically adjacent, I never thought about running for office. I’d accepted a friend’s invitation to attend a training for potential candidates in support of their efforts and to provide feedback. A reporter was there who wrote an article that started with the sentence “Ruwa Romman is contemplating a run for office.” That article sparked such an intensely positive community response that I launched my campaign 15 days later.
What do you see as the most pressing issue in Georgia today?
RR: I ran on a platform focused on fully funding public education, bridging the economic opportunity gap, expanding access to health care, and protecting the right to vote. If I had to pick the most pressing issue this upcoming year it would be healthcare. Multiple hospitals have closed in Georgia and healthcare is particularly inaccessible in our state. Accessing life-saving care should not be this hard.
Talk to me about Georgia’s potential in elections. In particular, after the 2020 elections where Georgia flipped blue.
RR: Georgia is a much more complicated place than people assume. 2020 was the clearest example of that, but that was the culmination of years of hard work and investment by organizations like the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, Fair Fight, Asian American Advocacy Fund, and so many more. These organizations and those like them focused on registering and educating voters changing the political landscape of the state.
Although 2022 did not go as we hoped, on an even more local level, the Georgia Democrats gained 3 seats in the house on an incredibly gerrymandered map. Communities are discussing things like ranked-choice voting. There’s also a strong intersectional movement that has had some incredible wins against organizations and groups that target minorities in our state.
Now that you have won the election, what do you look forward to and what are your main goals?
RR: Short term, I look forward to resting after our senate runoff. My team and I have been campaigning since January. Myself and organizers in the state are tired. I look forward to re-electing Senator Warnock and then taking some time off to recover before the session.
Next year, I look forward to learning all that I can to begin making progress on the issues that have fueled our campaign. I truly want to put public service back into politics. And within that process, I’m most excited about getting to know my freshman class who are all amazing people with incredible backgrounds. On the Democratic side, we’ll comprise a third of the entire Georgia House Democratic Caucus. That’s really exciting!
What is it like to be the first Muslim woman in the Georgia legislature? Talk to me about navigating these spaces as a Muslim woman.
Although I haven’t been sworn in yet, we had freshman orientation recently. It’s fun seeing people’s expectations of what I will completely change after they meet me. My goal is to do the best that I can for my constituents. And, I really hope to demystify the Muslim and Palestinian community to my colleagues so that the needs of my communities can be met.
I know you have a long history of working in public service, such as with CAIR, Mercy Corps, and civil rights organizations. What pushed you to start working in public service? What have your experiences been and how have they shaped your outlook on social/political issues?
RR: I tell people I’m stubbornly optimistic which some mistake as naivete. But, how are we supposed to make the world better if we can’t envision what it looks like? There are a lot of special interests pursuing policies and building infrastructure for their benefit even if it’s at the expense of our communities. It’s time we did the same for our communities. I’ve always had a belief that just because something is a certain way, that doesn’t mean it won’t change. That need and belief to change things naturally pushed me into public service. That experience taught me to be more discerning about what organizations are actually impactful, showing me where my time and resources are best spent.
What are your thoughts on mobilizing Muslims to go and vote, especially with the midterm elections this year?
RR: Politics cares about you even if you don’t care about it. These laws are being passed even as you sit out the process. Voting is a crucial tool within a toolbox to make our world better. The point is to vote so you create the best environment possible for your goals. And during off years, you build capacity and advocate for the issues you care about.
No candidate is perfect. I’m very aware of that. But, our current system presents choices. One of those choices gets to make decisions. We cannot ignore that.
What would you say to young Muslim women who are trying to work in public service? Any words of wisdom?
RR: Be as authentically you as possible. That also includes within our own Muslim communities. Everyone will have expectations and mixed opinions of what you should be, but only you know who you are. You’re the best expert about yourself. Center that and make it your anchor. People always come around.
What was one rewarding moment of your career, where you felt really gratified?
RR: The moment the No Ban Act passed Congress was incredibly surreal and gratifying because I got to help draft and pass that piece of federal legislation. It was such a clear example of what can happen when we mobilize on an issue.