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News > Alumni Stories > Natalie Turgut-Thompson (Class of 2006)

Natalie Turgut-Thompson (Class of 2006)

Meet Old Girl Natalie - Founder of Street Rights, an NGO whose aim is to secure justice for street children globally ...
4 Nov 2022
United Kingdom
Alumni Stories

Please let us know what you are doing now and where?

I’m the Founder of Street Rights – a new NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) that will use the law to change street-connected children’s lives around the world. It’s a really exciting time to be moving forward with Street Rights, an idea that I’ve been wanting to progress for a long time. I’m currently based in London with my partner and young daughter.

What is an average week like for you?

Varied! Street Rights is in the start-up phase which means I’m the only member of staff and am working across all areas of the organisation. It’s an amazing chance to learn and grow my skills.

A typical day can involve developing our programme, connecting with other NGOs that work with street-connected children to learn about their lives and, at the moment, the impact that Covid has had on them. Alongside this it’s also important to understand where the work will make the most difference, so I liaise with lawyers and other experts about where we might make the most impact. At the moment however most of my time is spent fundraising – this could be writing applications to funders or meeting with donors to talk to them about Street Rights and how they can support what we’re trying to achieve.

What did you study at BGS?

At A Level I studied Philosophy and Ethics, Politics and English Lit. I also took History AS Level. There are shades of all of these subjects in what I’ve chosen as a career, but I didn’t have something specifically in mind when making my choices, I was just really curious.

Your journey after leaving BGS?

After BGS, I went to Sheffield University to study Philosophy, graduating in 2009. Post Uni travelling called and I took off with my best friend. I was shocked by what I witnessed and knew I wanted to work to change things. It was this experience that motivated me to work in human rights.

After travelling came a move to London and with that a Graduate Diploma in Law before starting work. I wanted to work internationally and so selected two internships – one with a Nigerian NGO working on community strengthening and mobilisation in communities affected by oil and gas exploitation and one with street-connected children. Looking back on my previous subject choices it’s perhaps unsurprising that I immediately became interested in advocacy and policy roles – and trying to change the status quo!

Since then, my career has centred around advocating for change for marginalised children at national and international levels, whether that be for street-connected children, trafficked children or children affected by conflict.

It was whilst working at the Consortium for Street Children, the global network dedicated to realising street-connected children’s rights, that I became aware of the legal gap for street-connected children. This meant more study! This time to SOAS, University of London to do an LLM in Human Rights, Conflict and Justice. It was whilst I was here that the idea for Street Rights was born.

What was your main motivation for establishing Street Rights?

I remain as horrified and appalled at the treatment of street-connected children as I was when I first started working in this sector twelve years ago. In South Africa, during the first Covid wave, street-connected children were rounded up by police and locked up in a disused car park with no access to food or water. It’s responses like this that we need to change.

After working for six years at the Consortium for Street Children, collaborating with NGOs, academics and policy-makers all around the world, it was clear that there is a huge gap in this sector. No other organisation has ever focused solely on using the law strategically to secure street-connected children’s rights.

Street Rights will pursue legal change, bridging the gap between policy and practice and adding value to the incredible work that NGOs are doing around the world every day.

I was part of the team advocating for and developing the UN General Comment on children in street situations – authoritative guidance to governments on how to realise street-connected children’s rights – but policy doesn’t stick. The willingness of one government to do something can be undone overnight with a change of government. We need legal change if there is to be lasting change for street-connected children.

What do you hope to do in the future, where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

I hope that Street Rights will be a thriving NGO, working in multiple countries to challenge the harmful laws that keep street-connected children marginalised. I want us to have successfully demonstrated how governments can do things differently for street-connected children. Ten years is not a very long time to pursue legal change and ensure it is lasting – and so I see myself very much leading Street Rights, but hopefully with a bigger team alongside me!

When you look back at your time at BGS, what are some of your fondest memories?

I made my lifelong friends at BGS, and it is these friendships that help to make me who I am and this is what I will always take with me from my time at school.  Some of my fondest memories are from the Festival Choir trips exploring different cities in Europe every summer with friends. From singing in the Vatican to 36-hour bus journeys and gate-crashing the British Roller-Hockey team’s gold-medal party in Budapest – every year we brought home new stories to remember and laugh about.

How did the teachers at BGS help shape your career choice?

I loved English Lit and my English teacher cultivated in me my questioning attitude. She always encouraged me to probe further and think about why something is the way it is, what motivates it and how could it be different. I’ve taken this with me throughout my higher education and professional work. My English teacher encouraged me to think creatively and to think about different perspectives – this led me to study Philosophy and is a foundational skill necessary for advocating for change. It’s this questioning attitude that led me to set up Street Rights, an organisation thinking differently about street-connected children and how we can bring about change in their lives.

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