Meet Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian-American woman in the US House of Representatives

Civil-rights activist Pramila Jayapal has over 20 years of experience in the field of social justice, both at home as well as internationally

On November 9, 2016, Pramila Jayapal created history by becoming the first Indian-American woman to the be elected to the US House of Representatives.

51-year-old Jayapal, the civil-rights activist who scored an endorsement from Bernie Sanders in April this year, battled 32-year-old Brady Walkinshaw and got 57 percent votes from the Washington state. She’s now on road to represent Washington’s super-liberal 7th District in the US House of Representatives.

Advocacy Work
Jayapal founded Hate Free Zone in response to hate crimes and discrimination targeting the Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Under her leadership, Hate Free Zone, which changed its name to OneAmerica, became the largest immigrant and refugee advocacy organisation in Washington State.

As the co-director of We Belong Together– a campaign to mobilise women in support of immigration policies that keep families together and empower women, she led the national fight for comprehensive immigration reform. She was recognised as a White House “Champion of Change” in May 2013.

Apart from being a guest speaker on various shows, Jayapal has also authored a memoir- Pilgrimage to India: A Woman Revisits Her Homeland and written numerous essays, articles and guest editorials.

Jayapal entered the politics in 2014 after state senator Adam Kline announced his retirement. She was endorsed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and went on to defeat Democrat Louis Watanabe in November’s general election in the Washington state capital Olympia. During her time in the Senate, she successfully a passed legislation that increases the number of women in the state highway workforce, securing $5.25 million to fund pre-apprenticeship programs.

She announced her candidacy for Congress in Washington’s 7th congressional district in January this year and finished first in the top-two primary in August this year to advance to the general election in November.

Early life and education
Born in Chennai to a Tamil family, Jayapal was raised in Indonesia and Singapore before she came to the United States at the age of 16 to attend Georgetown University. She worked on the Wall Street as a financial analyst following which she earned a Master of Business Administration from the Northwestern University.

Pramila lives in Seattle with her husband Steve Williamson. She has a son Janak, who is a student at the Wesleyan University and a step-son, Michael, who lives in Colorado.