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Our impact: Emi Mahmoud – “Wilton Park changed my perspective”

We discussed our impact with Emi Mahmoud: Sudanese poet, activist, founder, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and Wilton Park alumnus.

Emi attended a Wilton Park event in 2017 on human trafficking and forced migration. She made an instant impression by delivering an electrifying poetry reading to participants 

Why have you come back to Wilton Park?

“It completely changed my perspective”

“I first came here when I was very young and at the start of my career. It was a pivotal moment for me because I felt like this place was almost the antithesis of everything that I am. It’s very old and very English – a place that I did not think that I would feel comfortable or welcome.”

“And it completely changed my perspective because I felt that I was able to contribute to the dialogue and contribute to the table in a way that I wasn’t expecting to in a pace in like this.”

“So Wilton Park was meaningful to me because it was a moment where I felt maybe a little bit small and as soon as I stepped into this space I was welcomed with open arms and I felt I could contribute.”

What would you tell others who are attending a Wilton Park event?

“Take your place at the table and use it”

“I would tell them I loved my time at Wilton Park because you’ll feel cared for, you’ll feel loved and you’ll feel as if your ideas could actually flourish in a safe space before they’re executed out in the real world”

“A lot of young people and people of colour and people who are survivors and former refugees like me are always afraid that we’re only brought to the table to be some sort of show and tell.

If you’re going to come to Wilton Park, and if you understand that you’re allowed to be at the table – not just allowed but that there’s a reason you can be there and that you’re important part of the puzzle – then you’ll make the absolute best out of it.”

“Wilton Park feels really safe. It’s all about actually forming the ideas and doing the work.”

“I use poetry because it helps you reach people when they least expect to be reached and I think in a time when I wasn’t expecting it, Wilton Park reached me.”

Emi Mahmoud

Emi at Wilton Park

The Harpers Bazaar magazine article pages showing "The New Change Makers" on the left and a portrait of Emi Mamoud on the right. © Emma Hardy
Emi’s profile as a ‘new change maker’ in Harpers Bazaar, March 2020 – Photographed by Emma Hardy

Emi asked us if she could use Wilton Park for a photoshoot with Harper’s Bazaar magazine. She featured in a recent article on “The New Changemakers: Introducing the trailblazing women who are transforming the way we live now”. 

When asked why she chose Wilton Park, Emi replied, “For the photo shoot, I was asked to choose a place I find meaningful, a place that has inspired me; my time at Wilton Park immediately came to mind.” 

About Emi Mahmoud

She has debated with presidents, been comforted by the Dalai Lama, and been called one of the world’s most inspiring women – but it’s as a poet that Emtithal Mahmoud truly shines. 


Originally from Sudan, Emi moved to Yemen then the United States as a child. An activist since high school, Emi advocates for the the cause of refugees and disadvantaged communities, and draws attention to the continuing violence in Sudan.  

In 2015, Emi was named one of BBC’s 100 Most Inspirational Women and in 2016 she became the World Poetry Slam Champion, delivering her powerful poem “Mama” and breaking three world records in contemporary poetry. 

Emi reciting her poem ‘Mama’

She was appointed as a United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador in 2018. 

Emi has worked with the Dalai Lama and served as part of a select group of Muslim American leaders chosen to advise the Obama administration on countering islamophobia and discrimination. 

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