NJ’s First South Asian-American Woman Mayor on Representation

Sadaf Jaffer sworn in as the mayor of Montgomery, NJ, on Jan. 3 by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. (Photo via Twitter)

Following her swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 3 as the new mayor of Montgomery Township in central New Jersey, Sadaf Jaffer became the state’s first South Asian-American woman mayor. Jaffer, a postdoctoral research associate in South Asian studies at Princeton University, speaks to The American Bazaar‘s Zofeen Maqsood about becoming mayor “in these times of anti-immigrant rhetoric.”

Representation matters. When I was first running for office someone asked me why we didn’t see more South Asian Americans involved in the political system when the population of South Asians in our community is relatively high. I replied that if people never see anyone who looks like them in the spaces where political decisions are made, they may think it isn’t the place for them. It’s important for there to be a first, so there can also be a second and a third etc.

A few years ago, I started working with a small group of women in New Jersey to start an organization. We decided to call it Inspiring South Asian American Women (ISAAW) to encourage more South Asian American women to get involved in the political process. In my difficult moments, I know I can reach out to my ISAAW sisters. In times of celebration, they are always there for me. We have a need for mentorship and networking among women to make sure that we have the representation in government that we deserve.

Jaffer also emphasized the need to “stand in solidarity with other minority groups and oppressed groups,” adding that “as the saying goes, ‘if you’re not at the table you’re on the menu.’”

She also speaks about what many Americans do not know about immigration, her plans to foster diversity in Montgomery, and her cultural influences and experiences. Go to The American Bazaar for the full story.

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