South Sudanese refugee, Rose Nathike Lokonyen, runs the 800-metres for the Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016, in a heat that includes the great Caster Semenya of South Africa.
© UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau

Rose Nathike Lokonyen

About Rose

Rose Nathike Lokonyen was announced as a High Profile Supporter for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in March 2021.

Refugee athlete and Olympian Rose Nathike Lokonyen fled violence in South Sudan when she was just 8 years old. Growing up with her family in Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya, she barely knew the talent she had. During a school competition in the camp, a teacher suggested that she run a 10-kilometre race. She came in second.

When trails races for the International Olympic Committee’s Refugee Olympic Team training squad came to Kakuma Camp, Rose won her race barefoot. She subsequently moved to the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation Training Centre near the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where she trained to run the 800-metre event at the Olympics. On 5 August 2016, she walked into the Maracanã Stadium in Rio carrying the flag for the first Refugee Olympic Team in history.

Since then, Rose has represented millions of refugees at sporting events around the world and has advocated for the life-changing power of sports for displaced people. In 2016, Rose was invited to participate at a sports conference in Sweden, and in June 2018, was invited to Geneva to participate at the 5th Formal Consultation on the Global Compact on Refugees. She also participated as a delegate in the 2018 Human Rights Council Social Forum in October 2018 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. Rose was actively involved in the 2018 campaign by UNHCR Private Sector Partnerships ‘Step for Safety’ including appearing in local media interviews to share her story with members of the public. This created the much needed advocacy which, in large part, led to a huge turnout for the walk that raised money to support refugees across Africa. Rose has also represented the Athlete Refugee Team at the World Relays Championships in Yokohama, Japan, in May 2019, and the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar in the same year at which she set a Personal Best in 800m.  Rose has most recently supported UNHCR taking part in an online panel discussion for #EqualsEverywhere as part of the UN Foundation’s activities around International Women’s Day.