SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Megan Gaventa

  • Overview


Staff Silhouette
Ms Megan Gaventa
Email address:
Thesis title:
Imagining an 'Empowered Woman' in the UK Development Landscape: An Ethnographic Exploration (working title)
Internal Supervisors


My research is influenced by my academic training in Anthropology and Sociology, and my ten years' experience of working with international development organisations.

In 2015, I completed my MA Social Anthropology of International Development (Distinction) at SOAS. My MA dissertation was based on discourse analysis of documents produced during a women's political empowerment project in Nepal, and examined the actions, qualities, background and environment associated with an 'empowered woman' in the project.

As a development practitioner, I worked with community-based organisations in Bangladesh; civil society organisations in India; and international NGOs, campaigning organisations and academic institutions in the UK. Throughout my work, I encountered the complexities of working towards gender equality through development practice. This experience has provided an important foundation for my subsequent academic study.

PhD Research

Discourses and practices of women's empowerment are prolific in the contemporary international development landscape in the UK. Celebrated by the Department for International Development, UK-based international NGOs and private sector organisations, an ‘empowered woman’, it seems, has the potential to transform the lives of her family and community, and to realise development itself. Yet, what does it mean to be an ‘empowered woman’? Where do these ideas come from? How do they travel, shift and change? And, how are they influenced by the rise of the private sector in development?

My PhD research aims to provide an ethnographic lens on such questions. Inspired by anthropological approaches to 'studying up', it will be carried out using qualitative research methods with UK-based international NGOs, private sector organisations, policymakers and networks. It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).