Sally Cawood

PhD Development Policy and Management

Why did you choose to study at The University of Manchester?

Sally Cawood

I had completed my BA Geography and MA Social Policy and Social Development degrees at Manchester – I loved the city and the department. I chose to do my PhD there as I knew the supervision would be excellent, and I would be exposed to lots of new ideas and challenged in ways I wouldn’t be had I gone elsewhere.

What was your particular research topic and why did you choose it?

My research focused on access to, and governance of water and sanitation infrastructure and services in low-income, informal settlements in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It also explored how residents were organising collectively at a local to city-scale to address other pressing urban challenges, such as access to land tenure and housing, social and financial security.

I had a long-standing interest in urban development since my BA, and had been inspired by the work of Prof Diana Mitlin and colleagues working on citizen-led development in towns and cities of the global South during my masters in IDPM/GDI. I was also excited to join a lively hub of colleagues who had been working in Bangladesh for many years.

This is important because an estimated one billion people worldwide live in low-income, informal settlements with limited or no access to quality, affordable and sustainable infrastructure and services, from water and sanitation, to housing, education and healthcare. Climate change, conflict and shifting livelihood priorities mean that more and more people are migrating to settlements in the centre or peripheries of small towns and cities. The struggles of low-income urban residents for recognition and redistribution (locally and globally) remain central to research, policy and practice going forward.

Were your studies funded?

Yes, I was lucky to have been awarded a PhD scholarship funded by the Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Foundation.

What have you done since graduation?

After my PhD, I went on to do two post-docs, one at the University of Leeds, where I worked with sanitation engineers on the ‘Climate and Costs in Urban Sanitation’ project, and another at the University of Sheffield, where I was PI on a GCRF-QR funded project ‘Gender, Caste and Urban Sanitation Work’, focusing on those who clean and manage toilets, septic tanks, sewers and drains in India and Bangladesh.

In March 2022, I joined the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University as a Lecturer in Economic Geography. In September 2022, I will start a new ESRC New Investigators project on hazardous sanitation labour in Bangladesh, including archival and participatory action research.

Has your qualification helped you in your career?  

It has given me the ability to think critically, and the conceptual, methodological and practical skills to understand complex global and local challenges.

Do you have any tips or advice for current or prospective students? 

My friends and peers from the PhD – a great crowd of people from all over the world, who I will never forget!