You might know her as the woman that has been comforted by the Dalai Lama or the winner of the International World Poetry Slam Championship in Washington, DC, one of BBC’s 100 women in 2015. But more than anything else, Emtithal Mahmoud shakes up the world as a poet.
Emtithal was originally born in Darfur, Sudan. Later, she and her family moved to Philadelphia, US. When she was seven she went back to Sudan, where her parents were involved in protests against the government.
Because of experiences like these, she saw the value of her education. In Philadelphia, she went to the Julia R. Masterman High School and won the Leonore Annenberg’s scholarship, a prize covering all costs for four years at any college in the United States.
The talented poet proceeded to study Anthropology and Molecular Biology at the Yale University and graduated in 2016.
Her life and her poetry were drastically shaped by the ongoing conflict in Dafur. She says; “When Darfur was no longer on the front page of the New York Times every day, when people stopped talking about it in the big media outlets, people thought, ‘Oh, the war must have stopped.’ But the reality is, we’re still living it every day.”
She won the WPS championship with her poem “Mama”, as a tribute to her mother and her grandmother, who passed away just as the competition was starting. “It’s mostly about my mother on the surface, but the reality is that the things I learned from her she learned from her mother, and her mother before her, so I called it “Mama” and made it about my mom. But it’s about the women in my family, the women in my life.”
She also dedicated a poem to Alan Kurdi called Boy in the Sand. This year, she published her first book of poems called Sisters’ Entrance.
Besides all those accomplishments, she has also supported the United Nations Refugee Agency’s work since 2016. Last June, Emtithal has been appointed as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. This means that she’s someone who advocates for a specific cause as a public figure. In March 2018, she visited Jordan and spent time with Syrian refugees. On top of these amazing roles, she also represented UNHCR at multiple high profile events such as the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society in Paris.
This woman is goals and makes you sit and listen carefully!
This article was written by Ghofrane Sbai