Our Team

Social development specialists with decades of
International development sector experience

Our Team


Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed

Technical Specialist

Zahrah joined SDDirect’s technical team in November 2016, and has been working on a range of projects focused on women’s economic empowerment.

Zahrah brings extensive experience in women’s economic empowerment, the care economy (both paid and unpaid) and urbanisation. Zahrah uses qualitative research methods, and has been involved in various studies and trainings for donors, civil society organisations and researchers on qualitative and participatory approaches. Zahrah’s portfolio at SDDirect includes working as a Lead Researcher on projects including an IIED-funded study on Women’s Economic Empowerment and Humanitarian Aid in Kathmandu Valley post-Earthquake, and the production of a discussion paper on Gender Responsive Access to Local Public Goods and Services for UNOPS. Zahrah also provides technical assistance on women’s economic empowerment to two DFID-funded Facilities – Infrastructure and Economic Development (ICED) and Business Environment Reform (BER).

Zahrah previously worked as a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). There, Zahrah was involved in a range of programmes related to the economic empowerment of women and girls’, including making unpaid care work visible in public policy, the shifting roles of men in addressing sexual and gender-based violence, and conceptualising inclusive cities and urbanisation.

Some of the other work Zahrah has undertaken includes working as a researcher on the IDRC, DFID and Hewlett Foundation funded research on balancing paid work and unpaid care work for women’s economic empowerment in India, Nepal, Rwanda and Tanzania; a DFID-funded study on making unpaid care work visible in public policy in Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria and Uganda; SIDA-funded work on the care economy in Bangladesh and Indonesia; and DFID-funded case studies on collective action and engaging men and boys to address sexual and gender-based violence. Zahrah was also the International Qualitative Lead Researcher for an FAO study on social protection and rural women’s economic empowerment in Malawi, and the country lead for a Plan UK peer-led study on youth and fragility in Northern Nigeria.

Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Zahrah has a BSc in Human and Physical Geography from the University of Reading, an MSc in Urbanisation and Development and a PhD in Human Geography and Urban Studies - both from the London School of Economics. Zahrah’s PhD explored the lives of male and female domestic workers in Lagos, Nigeria.

Zahrah loves travelling, walking and good food. An avid reader – particularly of the African literature variety - Zahrah has been running an African literary website - bookshy - since 2011.