Sudanese-American slam poet Emi Mahmoud has supported UNHCR’s work since 2016. She was appointed as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in June 2018 having opened TEDxKakumaCamp, the first ever TEDx event held in a refugee camp.
Born in Khartoum, Sudan, before later moving to the United States, Emi has used her talents to raise awareness on the refugee cause. Her works include How am I to celebrate?, which shines light on the millions of refugees marking Ramadan away from their homes and loved ones, Boy in the Sand, a poem dedicated to Alan Kurdi on the first anniversary of his death, and Head over Heels, written in August 2017 to mark the announcement of the millionth South Sudanese refugee entering Uganda.
Emi has travelled to witness UNHCR’s frontline work in the field. In March 2018 she visited Jordan, where she spent time with Syrian refugees in Zaatari and Azraq camps as well as some of the 81% living in urban settlements who are benefiting from UNHCR’s innovative cash assistance programme. This followed trips to Uganda - where Emi led poetry workshops - and Lesvos, Greece, where she spoke with Syrian refugees who had survived the perilous sea crossing from Turkey.
Emi has represented UNHCR at various high profile events, including the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society in Paris, the 2017 anniversary event for the #IBelong campaign on statelessness, at The Youth Strategy 2030 launch at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and at the The Hilton Foundation Humanitarian Prize event.
Emi has been a committed supporter of various UNHCR campaigns. She added her voice to our #WithRefugees campaign film alongside other fellow high profile supporters, refugees and UNHCR staff from around the world, and later performed at the historic hand in of the #WithRefugees petition at the 2016 UN General Assembly in New York. In 2016 Emi also joined our Nansen Refugee Award ceremony, performing ‘Bird Watching on Lesvos Island’, another poem written following her meetings with refugees in Greece. Emi took part in UNHCR's Everyone Counts Campaign in 2019 which celebrated the strength, resilience and skills that refugees bring to their new communities and highlighted that 'everyone has a role to play' in helping refugees.