Martha Nelems

Associate faculty

Humanitarian Studies

Martha Nelems is a political scientist by training, and a feminist and environmentalist by conviction. With twenty-four years of experience in child protection, Martha conducts child protection related research and evaluations, leads training and reflective practices for formal and community members of social welfare workforces and gives technical advice to United Nations global programmes. She also provides strategic advice and mentors governments in the development and implementation of reform oriented child and family welfare policies. In all of her work, she is committed to creating opportunities for children, their families and communities to identify challenges to the well-being of girls and boys and resources that can be strengthened to ensure better protection and well-being.


Martha is a senior associate with Child Frontiers and was previously the senior policy advisor for children’s rights at the Canadian International Development Agency. She works in many countries in Africa and Asia to address issues such as violence against children and child marriage, to support refugee children and families, and to help reform child and family welfare systems. She advises the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage. After many years in the Middle East, North Africa and the United States, Martha now lives on the West Coast of Canada.


Master of Arts (Hons.) Political Science

University of British Columbia

Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) Political Science

Carleton University


“Shattered Lives: Challenges and Priorities for Syrian Children and Women in Jordan” UNICEF June 2013.

“Listening to Iraqi refugee children in Jordan, but then what? Exploring the impact of participatory research with children”, Development in Practice, Volume 22, Issue 4, 2012, Special Issue: Child Protection in Development.

“The Unity Circle Project: Experiences of Iraqi Children and Parents Living in Amman, Jordan”, 2008.

Report: End Child Marriage: A voice, a chance, a future. 19-21 October, 2021. For UNFPA and UNICEF

Report: The Design Workshop for Phase II of the Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage. 18-23 February, 2019.  For UNFPA and UNICEF

Report: Community Perceptions of Child Wellbeing in Zambia. 2018. For UNICEF Zambia.

Report: Review of Policies and Plans of Action Related to Child Protection in Twenty-Four West and Central African Countries. 2016. For UNICEF WCARO.

Report: Thematic Evaluation of Partnerships in Children and Youth Protection Programming. 2016. For the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Government of Canada

Report: A Qualitative Study of Violence Against Children in Bhutan. 2015. For UNICEF Bhutan.