Ruth Sylvester

Ruth Sylvester


I am a first-year PhD student at the Water-WISER CDT, based at the University of Leeds. I hold an MSc with distinction from Loughborough University’s Water Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC). My undergraduate degree is in Chemistry from University College London. 

I have worked with multiple UK-based NGOs in the humanitrain and international development sectors. I undertook my master’s degree to support my specialism in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for development. My PhD combines my interests in WASH technologies with racial and gender justice.

Research interests

My research examines the effectiveness of gender programming in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector, from a decolonial feminist perspective. Decolonial feminisms critique white, western centrism in the mainstream feminist narratives of development discourse. It is crucial to critically reflect on how we define gender equality, on whose terms, and under what cultural influence. Dr Lata Narayanaswamy and Keya Khandaker in the School of Politics and International studies write an excellent blog on this problem.

These types of femininsm offer contextual insights into equitable development, with a focus on local and global power imbalances. With it’s own SDG, WASH is situated firmly within the international development sector and as such is subject to critique for it’s links to historic and neo- colonialism. Disourse within the WASH sector is beginning on this subject: Luseka E., IRC, UNC


Research Interests

  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development
  • Decolonising Development
  • Gender and Development
  • Feminist Political Ecology
  • Intersectionality Theory and Research Methods


  • MSc International Water and Sanitation Engineering, Loughborough University
  • BSc Chemistry, University College London

Research groups and institutes

  • Water, Public Health and Environmental Engineering