Refugee women leaders: Mary Maker

“For the child of war, an education can turn their tears of loss into a passion for peace.”


© TEDxKakumacamp / Tobin Jones

Despite experiencing the trauma of conflict, Mary Maker is a beacon of light for so many. After fleeing war-torn South Sudan as a child, Mary found security and hope in attending school in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.  

When asked about what led her to become an advocate for refugee girls, Mary states, “I am a refugee myself. Fleeing my country, South Sudan, at the age of two with my mom and my younger sister, I have witnessed war. I have witnessed people dying near me and having to find a safe sanctuary like Kakuma, where there were no gunshots. Where at least you could see normalcy going on a day-to-day basis.” 


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She has since become a teacher of young refugees in her community and sees education as an essential tool for rebuilding lives and empowering a generation of girls who are too often denied entrance into the classroom. Mary is currently pursuing further studies as part of a scholarship programme at university in the United States. 

In 2018, Mary gave an impassioned speech at TEDxKakumaCamp entitled ‘Why I fight for the education of refugee girls (like me). In collaboration with UNHCR she has gone on to advocate on behalf of refugees on multiple global platforms including Sky News and ABC News.  

Mary has spoken at international events including Global GoalsCast and the Girl Up Summit and supported the launch of UNHCR’s annual Education Report. She has featured in social media films and briefings outlining the importance of education. In sharing her story, Mary highlights how forcibly displaced people through their resilience, talents and ambitions play an active role not only in responding to the global refugee situation, but also to the coronavirus pandemic. 

To learn more about Mary and her work, please visit the UNHCR global website.

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