Georgette Mulheir

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Georgette Mulheir
Oldham, England
🏡 ResidenceLondon, England
🏳️ NationalityEngland
🎓 Alma materThe University of Sheffield
💼 Occupation
🥚 Twitterg_mulheir
👍 FacebookGeorgette-Mulheir-109388934325162/

Georgette Mulheir is a UK activist born in 1968. From an early age, Georgette was an active participant in social justice campaigns. She started out as a teenager advocating for the Anti-Apartheid movement, Amnesty International, the environmental movement and refugee support.

Her work in social justice campaigns influenced the trajectory of her life. Georgette’s professional career began in residential social work in Northern England. Her experience as a social worker-led her to recognise that children in institutions were at a higher risk of extremely poor outcomes, including early death. Georgette’s work taught her that even in a wealthy country like England, children in residential care were at risk of serious harm from child abuse and human trafficking.


Throughout her career, she has worked in 33 countries. As a result, Georgette became a global expert on transforming systems of care and protecting children. Georgette Mulheir has worked to advise governments, philanthropists and the international community on transforming care. Her initiatives have directly saved the lives of more than 15,000 children and have improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of other children throughout the world. Georgette’s efforts have resulted in the growth of a global movement recognizing the harm caused to millions of children in orphanages around the world. Georgette has convinced international bodies and decision-makers to transform systems of care.  She developed an approach to care transformation used by many governments around the world. Over 50,000 professionals and politicians from more than 70 countries have been trained on how to transform care as a result of Georgette’s work.

In 1993, Georgette Mulheir spent time working in Bucharest in the country’s largest baby orphanage.  She developed a service to keep mothers and babies together rather than being separated in orphanages. Georgette was surprised to learn that most children in orphanages actually have living parents but have become separated by poverty, discrimination or a lack of access to services. Georgette also learned that caring for children in institutions, whilst severely harmful, is more expensive than family-based care.

Over the next ten years, Georgette Mulheir expanded her programming to many other countries around the world, including Belarus, Ukraine and Albania. Her efforts to bring a transformative model of care to the world has touched and transformed lives in additional countries like Japan, Russia, Kenya, Colombia, Haiti and Malaysia.

In 2003, Georgette Mulheir worked tirelessly in Sudan to address the emergency in the Khartoum State. She was approached by the Sudanese government and UNICEF to begin this work. At the time, as many. as 1,400 newborn babies were being left on the streets of Khartoum, because women who had children outside marriage were punished under Sharia Law. Nearly 50% of these babies died on the streets. The infants who were rescued were taken to the Maygoma orphanage where their chances of survival were not much better. The mortality rate at the orphanage was over 80% at that time. In order to transform the lives of these children, Georgette guided a group of local government officials, NGOs, lawyers, police officers, doctors, social workers and religious scholars in efforts to change the situation. Together, they implemented a system of emergency foster families and local adoptive families and encouraged improved nutrition and medical care in the orphanage.  The team also worked with progressive Islamic scholars, leading to a reinterpretation of Sharia Law that decriminalised being a single mother in Sudan. Today there are more than 10,000 children living happily in families who would have died had it not been for this team’s efforts.

In 2015, Georgette Mulheir worked in Haiti to uncover orphanage-trafficking. She and her team discovered that the majority of the orphanages in Haiti were unregistered, privately-run and funded predominantly by churches who wanted to help children. These orphanages were often staffed by young people who came to Haiti to volunteer. Georgette discovered that most orphanages were established purely to trick volunteers and donors into giving money.  Parents living in poverty were deceived or coerced into giving up their children.  Most commonly, parents were promised their children would receive the education they could not afford to provide. Often, conditions in the orphanages were deliberately. substandard so that the orphanage could raise more money. Children in these orphanages rarely received an education. Georgette’s team discovered that over $100 million was being donated annually to orphanages in Haiti that housed 30,000 children. Most of these children had been trafficked just for the donations they would bring. That amount of money could send over 770,000 children to school each year. This type of orphanage-trafficking can also be found in Africa and Asia, in countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Thailand and Cambodia.

Georgette presented the findings from Haiti to the Australian Parliamentary Inquiry on Modern Slavery. As a result of evidence given by Georgette Mulheir and other social activists around the world, Australia became the first country in the world to legislate against orphanage-trafficking.

In 2018, Georgette Mulheir spearheaded a program to address the family separation crisis along the border between the United States and Mexico. This emergency response program helped reunite hundreds of children with their families. Georgette’s team even managed to facilitate complicated reunifications of children whose parents were deported to Guatemala.  Georgette also led another program, in cooperation with the American Bar Association, to incorporate trauma-informed social work into the daily operations of defence attorneys supporting family reunification.

Over her 13 years at Lumos, Georgette Mulheir built a team of experts across the globe who have worked tirelessly to transform care.  In addition to training a multitude of people, Georgette has influenced global decision-makers and funders. Her work was instrumental in the formation of a coalition that persuaded the European Commission to changing its funding regulations.  As a result, more than 3 billion Euros were shifted away from renovating institutions. Instead, this money is being spent to improve community-based services with the goal of keeping children and families together.   Her advocacy strategy also resulted in the European Commission making a commitment to end the practice of putting unaccompanied refugee children in dangerous institutions. Georgette was part of a campaign that secured a United Nations Resolution on ending institutionalisation and promoting family-based care.

Georgette’s work has centred around the empowerment of children and young people, by encouraging children to take leadership roles in transforming care.  Georgette pioneered a ground-breaking program to support children and young people with intellectual disabilities to advocate for themselves and others.  These young people, supported by Georgette’s programs, have taken the stage at the United Nations in New York, the European Parliament in Brussels and in conversations with leaders of their own governments.


Georgette’s team was awarded the overall Charity of the Year award at the prestigious UK Charity Awards in 2015 for their work in Moldova. That same year, she received a Tribeca Disruptive Innovation award. These awards “acknowledge and uplift those who have challenged social norms to present world-changing inventions or ideas. These changemakers often live at the intersection of technology and culture, encourage advances in society, and raise the bar for a thriving humanity.” Georgette was also named as one of the world’s 30 most influential social workers.

Public Speaking[edit]

Georgette Mulheir gave a TED talk on the harm of institutionalism. It has been viewed nearly 900,000 times worldwide. She has spoken at the United Nations and the European Parliament.  She sat on the UK’s Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement.  She is the author of four books on children’s and women’s rights.


Mulheir, Georgette and Browne, K (2007).  De-institutionalising and Transforming Children’s Services.  A Guide to Good Practice. University of Birmingham: WHO Collaborating Centre for Child Care and Protection. Birmingham, UK.  ISBN: 0704426269 9780704426269

Mulheir, Georgette and Gyllensten, L  Institutionalization and the commodification of children.  How to ensure children regain their right to family life.  In Dolan, P and Frost, N (eds) (2019). The Routledge Handbook of Global Child Welfare.  Routledge.  ISBN 9780367335793

Mulheir, Georgette (2000). Private pain, public action: Violence against women in war and peace: a comparative study of the role and development of non-governmental organisations ... Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. University of Limerick: Centre for Peace and Development Studies. ISBN 978-1874653592.

G.Mulheir, K.Browne, S.Darabus, G.Misca, D. M. Pop, B. Wilson (2004). Deinstitutionalisation of Children's Services in Romania. UNICEF and Government of Romania. ISBN 973-8411-26-2.

G.Mulheir, L.Marginean, L.Rotaru (2008). Healing the Past Building the Future: Family Type 764 984 in the Republic of Moldova (in Romanian). Chişinău, Moldova: s.n. ISBN 9789975770972.

Mulheir, Georgette (2012). "Deinstitutionalisation – A Human Rights Priority for Children with Disabilities" (PDF). The Equal Rights Review. 9: 117–137. Retrieved 19 October 2015.

Mulheir, Georgette (September 2015). "Why influencing other funding is the best way to achieve your mission". Alliance Magazine. Retrieved 19 October 2015.