Bushra Amiwala is a Chicago native, activist, DePaul University Junior and former candidate for the Cook County Board of Commissioners. At the age of 19 she announced her candidacy for the Cook County Board of Commissioners to serve as a voice for her underrepresented generation and other marginalized communities.
Her campaign has been covered nationally by TIME magazine, Teen Vogue, Scholastic Magazine and Seventeen magazine to name a few. Bushra’s passion for various issues and organizations lead her to decide to run for office and her campaign resulted in historical voter turnout, making her a strong second with 13,500 votes. She was the youngest person and first Muslim woman to ever run for this seat and was recently named GlamourMagazine’s College Woman of the Year for 2018 and is on HerCampus’22 Under 22 Most Inspiring Women list. Bushra was awarded the Public Peace Ambassador award from Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), a nonprofit organization sponsored by the United Nations.
Bushra currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Indo-American Democratic Organization (IADO) and of Women Empowering Women In Local Legislation (WeWill), as its youngest board member. She also serves on the Board of Advisers for GenVote, an organization that seeks to mobilize young people in politics. Bushra hopes to one day be the CEO of her non-profit organization, and is currently the Marketing and Sales director for three different start up companies.
Running for office is just one of your many endeavours. You are a full-time student, an activist, a community volunteer. What drives your forward?
Seeing the work that I do have tangible impact, I can see, feel and experience truly inspires me to keep going. I have been humbled enough to see the direct impact of the work I do whether it is volunteering and working at a local community kitchen, or through my run for public office. Apart from that, I wholeheartedly enjoy the work I do and see it almost as a hobby — it is what I spend allof my free time doing. The people in these spaces constantly inspire and push me to do better, and I am grateful for the doors service work has opened for me.
Have you always had a passion for politics and helping the community?
Yes, I have always had a passion for helping the community, I just never realized this is something I could couple with politics to make a larger impact. I was always involved with service work in the diverse respective forms it comes in, and but I wasn’t focused in the work I was doing. I am passionate about so many issues — alleviating hunger, poverty, homelessness and educational equality, but it was politics that bridged all of these issues together, allowing me to make impact at a larger scale. It started off by me wearing the hijab my freshman year of high school, and later turned into direct involvement with various organizations.
Many young girls shy away from politics. How do we get more young women engaging in politics?
The scope to get involved politically is too narrow — from my experience, one can either make phone calls or knock on doors for a political candidate, and that was the extent of involvement. The third option would be to run for public office oneself. However, there are many more avenues to get involved which aren’t as mainstream and increasing youth engagement in politics begins with that. Attending more political orientated panel discussion events is a great way to stay involved, informed and even motivated with what goes on in the political world.
Also, involvement in politics doesn’t always have to be partisan, or issue based. The broad level of valuing the importance of civic engagement as a whole is a great place to start. Writing postcards to voters encouraging them to show up to the polls, hosting voter registration drives, and just being a deputy voter registrar, oneself are very tangible and equally as impactful ways to get involved.