NZ’s first African MP reveals his story from refugee to leader

‘I left behind everything I loved – including the list of things I wanted to do’

NZ’s first African MP reveals his story from refugee to leader

Labour MP Ibrahim Omer sparked an emotional response in Parliament after recounting the story of how he came to New Zealand.

Omer fled Eritrea and came to NZ as a refugee, working his way up from a cleaner to the country’s first African MP.

“I’m an Eritrean. I’m a former refugee. I’m a Muslim. I’m a trade unionist and a living-wage advocate. But most importantly I stand here before you today as a Kiwi bursting with pride,” Omer told Parliament.

Prior to the civil war in Eritrea, Omer said he had a happy childhood – one in which he dreamed of being either a footballer or a politician. However,, when the fighting started – he and his family had to leave.

“I left behind everything I loved. My country, my family, my friends, and my dreams – including the list of things I wanted to do,” added Omer.

Omer was eventually given refugee status by NZ after hearing it was “one of the most peaceful counties in the world”.

“The reality is, many millions of people have not had a luck that I've had," he added. “The world must be changed so millions aren't displaced and harm.

"I see you, I feel you, I will be by your side and fight alongside you.”

Omer is part of Jacinda Arden’s new cabinet – lauded as being the most diverse group of MPs in NZ history.

Leaders should know the importance of encouraging a diverse set of employees and employee values in their organizations. D&I isn’t an HR initiative – it’s a top-down strategy that not only benefits individuals but the larger organizations as a whole.

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