“To my sister and me, community is a very large network of individuals who share resources and work together.”
When Aisha Wahab, ’10 Political Science, declared candidacy for Hayward City Council in 2018, she did not expect to make international headlines. Born in New York to parents who had fled Afghanistan, Wahab faced significant obstacles as a child. Her father was murdered after arriving in the U.S. and her mother died soon after. Wahab and her sister navigated the foster system before being adopted by an Afghan-American couple when she was nine years old. Living with families of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, faiths and races shaped her perspective.
“We learned that regardless of our backgrounds, our education or where we come from, people want the same things,” says Wahab, a 31-year-old IT consultant and community organizer. “We want a healthy environment. We want opportunities to succeed and work hard. We want to move in a positive direction.”
Growing up, Wahab saw how barriers to affordable housing, education and a living wage can affect a community. While studying at San Jose State, Wahab worked full time and graduated during the Great Recession. She lost her job not long after her family home foreclosed. She resolved to change the status quo.
“That’s when I knew that my fulfillment in life—something that brings me great joy—is community work,” says Wahab.
Between serving on the Human Relations Commission, the Alameda County Public Health Commission, the Afghan Coalition, Abode Services, Tri-City Volunteers, and helping organize San Jose’s 2017 Women’s March, Wahab decided to run for Hayward City Council. She earned the greatest number of votes, attracting international attention when she was named one of the first Afghan-American women to hold public office in the U.S.
“There is not a single Afghan generation alive today that has not experienced or been affected by war,” says Wahab. “This is the second chapter in our American history.”