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Gwen Varley

Gwendolyn Varley
Postdoctoral Researcher, Division of Rural Development


As a postdoctoral researcher on the EU Horizon 2020-funded SteamBioAfrica project, I contribute to the work of its Gender Equality and Social Inclusion team. This entails ensuring that issues of gender are integrated throughout the project and investigating the impacts that the introduction of clean-burning biofuels has on gender inequalities and social norms in the participating communities in Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana. The interdisciplinary nature of the SteamBioAfrica project provides opportunities to better understand the intersections between multiple areas of gender inequality and women’s empowerment, including gendered divisions of labour, women’s and youth employment opportunities, respiratory health, sexual harassment and violence, and time poverty. My work aims to illuminate the ways that sustainable energy projects can anticipate and alleviate these challenges using gender-transformative approaches. The results of this research should contribute both to the success of the SteamBioAfrica project and to furthering the broader field of gender in agriculture and rural development. 

Aside from my work on the SteamBioAfrica project, my wider research interests include:

– Understanding the role of women’s empowerment in international development projects addressing nutrition and the developmental origins of health and disease

– Improving methods of measuring women’s empowerment in the monitoring and evaluation of agricultural development projects

– The role of masculinities in shaping social norms and reducing gender inequalities

– Ethics of international development and methods of decolonising development research and projects

– Using insights from feminist political ecology, reproductive justice activism, queer theory, and disability theory to inform and improve international development practice


PhD, Development Studies. University of Greenwich (Natural Resources Institute), UK. 2022. 

MS, International Agricultural Development. University of California-Davis, USA. 2015. 

BA, Chinese. Grinnell College, USA. 2011. 



Postdoctor at the Department of Urban and Rural Development; Division of Rural Development
Postal address:
Inst för stad och land, Box 7012
Visiting address: Ulls väg 27, Uppsala