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Nelly Ali


1st Supervisor: Dr Karen Wells (Reader in International Development and Childhood Studies)

2nd Supervisor: Dr Lisa Baraitser (Head of Department of Psychosocial Studies)

Contact details



Twitter: @nellyali


Research interests and profile

Nelly Ali has an LLM in Human Rights and is currently a PhD student in her final year. She has conducted a two-year ethnography with street girls and young street mothers in Cairo, Egypt. Nelly’s thesis carries out an analysis of the violence that permeates the lives of Egyptian street girls. Based on an extensive ethnographic study carried out in Cairo from June 2011 to December 2012, this study contributes to the existing debates both over gender-based violence, recognition and over childhood. It also provides data and analysis of interest to a range of stakeholders, from policy-makers, to NGOs, to street children themselves.

Her research interests include: Childhood Studies, Children’s Rights, Violence, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and Gender Studies.

Nelly has combined a rigorous and carefully considered academic approach with ceaseless campaigning to achieve the greatest positive outcomes that she can for the girls she has been working with. She has used an innovative mix of traditional research techniques combined with action through social media and activities on the ground. Her work has involved direct intervention to aid street children, for example through training professionals who come into contact with street children and organising activities to help the street children develop skills, networks and confidence so they are able to integrate into mainstream society. Second, as an academic researcher, Nelly has consistently reflected upon, evaluated and written about her work in Cairo in a way that builds the broader knowledge base about the lives of street girls and how best to help them. She has tirelessly reached out to new audiences to communicate about her work and draw support to the project from around the world. She has created both academic and lay knowledge through her work.

Nelly keeps a blog on her work with street children that has attracted over 100,000 readers in 170 countries. She has also been invited as a consultant guest to parliamentary meetings as part of a steering group for street children and shelter by the Consortium for Street Children and Street Invest. She has also been a speaker for the UN Women Egypt on International Women’s Day. Recently, Nelly has been part of a bi-national working group between Frankfurt and Cairo, sponsored and run by the Frankfurt Department for Women and Education and UN Women Egypt on “What it’s like being a girl in Cairo and Frankfurt”.


Nelly has had a range of different teaching experiences since she started her PhD at Birkbeck.

  • Module Leader: Institute of Education: Childhood Studies (Foundation Degree)
  • Module Leader: University of Roehampton: Children’s Rights (BA Degree) and Guest Lecturer on Human Rights Master’s
  • Lecturer: Anglia Ruskin University: Sociology of Childhood, Research Methods, Children’s Rights, Dissertation Supervisor (BA Degree)
  • Associate Tutor: Birkbeck: Social Studies of Childhood (Master’s Degree)
  • Guest Lecturer: Liverpool John Moores University
  • Guest Lecturer: Free University, Berlin, Germany



Ali, N. (2011) The Vulnerability and Resilience of Street Children. Global Studies of Childhood 1 (3) 260-264

Ali, N. (2014) 'The Pervasive Nature of Violence in the Day-to-Day Lives of Street Children', in Wells et al. Childhood, Youth and Violence in Global Contexts: Research and Practice in Dialogue (Studies in Childhood and Youth). Studies in Childhood and Youth. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Currently writing the following accepted publications:

Guest Editor of Special Issue in Global Studies of Childhood: Bridging the Divide: Researching Children / Young People and Sexuality

Journal Paper for Disability in the Global South: The Construction and Meaning of Well-Being and Disability and the Everyday Experiences of Street Girls in Cairo, Egypt

Journal Paper for DIFI Conference Publication: The Family Law of 2008 and Street Children of 'Unknown Parentage’

Book Chapter for Springer: Street Children in Egypt and Violence During the Uprising


Nelly is a writer and blogger for a number of online and print media publications including AlShorouk News who have over 5,000,000 online readership and is in daily print.

Other media outlets include:

The World Bank will also be including a blog by Nelly in their own blog launch in early July.

Magazine: What Women Want

Research awards

Birkbeck: Fees award PhD Studentship and 3 Conference Travel Awards

British Council: Conference Scholarship as part of a working group on Social Policy in the MENA area

Doha International Family Institute: Sponsorship to attend and present at international conference on Family Dynamics in the Arab World

Arab Council for Social Sciences: Sponsorship to attend and present at the ACSS Inaugural Conference on the Arab Uprising