Dr Sally Cawood


I have recently completed my PhD at the Global Development Institute (GDI), University of Manchester, UK. My PhD research focused on the role of Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) in constructing, monitoring and maintaining water and sanitation infrastructure in Dhaka’s slum settlements, Bangladesh. I also focused on the extent to which CBOs could up-scale, for the urban poor to demand their rights to basic services, shelter and recognition as entitled urban citizens. During my PhD I was also a Research Associate on three interdisciplinary research projects:

British Academy-Funded 'Safeguarding the "Last 100 Metres" in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HflC4_yiVBc

ESPA-Funded EcoPoor Project - ‘Institutions for the Urban Poor’s Access to Ecosystem Services: A Comparison of Green and Blue Structures in Bangladesh and Tanzania’ and, 

ESRC-DFID Funded ClimUrb Project - 'Climate Change and Urban Poverty in Bangladesh'. See our recent publication: Roy, M. Cawood, S. Hordijk, M and Hulme, D. 2016. Urban Poverty and Climate Change: Life in the Slums of Asia, Africa and Latin America. London, Routledge.

I am now working as a Research Fellow, alongside Prof Barbara Evans and colleagues at Leeds, as part of the exciting Climate and Costs in Urban Sanitation (CACTUS) Project. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2017-19), CACTUS will support the development of simple tools which facilitate pre-feasibility and scenario planning for urban managers who want to invest in urban sanitation. The investment will build on an existing body of work to examine costs and benefits of a range of urban sanitation systems under variable climatic conditions. Specifically the investment will develop tools for (a) estimating energy and water use and GHG emissions, (b) estimating social and health costs of climate-related system failures and (c) estimating and optimizing life-time investment and operational costs for sewered and non-sewered networked urban sanitation systems. This will enable city planners to make better-informed decisions about the most cost-effective investments in the face of future climate uncertainty.


  • Research Fellow in Bill and Melinda Gates Funded Climate and Costs in Urban Sanitation (CACTUS)

Research interests

  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): access to safe water and hygienic sanitation is a basic human right. Whilst progress has been made in improving access to water and sanitation, untreated faecal sludge (from open defecation and/or ‘unimproved’ facilities) poses major risks to health and the environment. The CACTUS project focuses on citywide solutions to this pressing issue.
  • Community-Led Urban Development: I’ve taught on MA courses outlining the activities and strategies of various citizen-led movements, including; Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) (http://knowyourcity.info/); the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) (http://www.achr.net/) and Orangi Pilot Project (OPP). These organisations and their members deploy a range of tactics to achieve pro-poor, inclusive urban development in towns and cities across the Global South.
  • Collective Action (CBOs, Cooperatives, Urban Social Movements): My PhD research in Dhaka focused on the core concept of ‘collective action’ (i.e. the coordination of a group of individuals to achieve certain outcomes). I am particularly interested in the role and function of CBOs, urban cooperatives and social movements in obtaining and managing WASH (especially faecal sludge management), housing and land. 
  • Gender and WASH: women and young girls often unequally bear the burden of inadequate WASH services and infrastructure. I am particularly passionate about understanding the insecurities women and girls face in accessing WASH facilities in low-income settlements, as many suffer from sexual harassment when travelling to/from and using these facilities. Many also face barriers to participation in collective action and service improvement - understanding these barriers, and their solutions, is central to equitable WASH.
  • Climate Change (Impacts and Adaptations): climate-related hazards, such as flooding, waterlogging and intense heat, disproportionately affect low-income households (often living in slums) in towns and cities across the Global South. It is essential, therefore, to understand the impacts to, and adaptations made by low-income groups, and plan for future climate-resilient infrastructures and services that reach the poorest.


  • PhD Development Policy and Management
  • MA Social Policy and Social Development
  • BA (Hons) Geography