Dr Sammia Poveda

School of Geography and Planning

Lecturer in International Development

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Dr Sammia Poveda
School of Geography and Planning (nee Geography)
Geography and Planning Building
Winter Street
S3 7ND

Sammia is a Lecturer in International Development in the Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield. She is also a Committee Member of the Digital Geographies Working Group of the Royal Geographical Society, with the Institute of British Geographers (DWGW/RGS-IBG), a Member of the Executive Council of the Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA) and a Trustee of the NGO Coda International UK. Formerly, was a Research Associate of the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID) at the University of Sheffield, UK, and previously a Research Fellow of the United Nations University, Institute on Computing and Society (UNU-CS) in Macao, China. She completed her PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.

Research interests

My research explores the interplay of the body and the mind in development interventions, to understand the role of identity and agency within gender, class and race oppression and their intersections with a particular focus on mental health. This theoretical framework calls for an understanding of power and subordination that considers the interplay between the body and the mind within individuals, to better understand oppression but also the possibility of autonomy and emancipatory self-transformation. My aim is to bring mental health into thinking and practice of development work, as a way to support not just the material well-being of individuals, but their autonomy and agency. This work informs and is informed by critical theory, critical pedagogy and the capabilities approach. Empirically this entails work on digital literacy projects, the use of mobile phone applications for improving women’s empowerment, and the use of ICT and life skills training for the recovery and reintegration of survivors of modern slavery. My research includes work in Brazil, Myanmar and the Philippines, in collaboration with business, NGOs, multilateral organisations as well as governments.

Current research

Recovery and reintegration of survivors of modern slavery (Philippines)

This project is co-led with Dr Hannah Thinyane from UNU-CS. This project takes place in the Philippines in partnership with a social enterprise and aims to examine the role ICTs can have in supporting traffiking survivors’ autonomy, emancipatory self-transformation and their reintegration to society, using theortical frameworks drawn from critical theory, critical pedagogy and the capabilities approach. Fieldwork for this project used Participatory Digital Video, and we are also exploring the value of such approach.

Psychosocial wellbeing, ICTs and post-conflict societies (Myanmar)

Working in a post-conflict society and one of the last countries opening up to the internet. This work examined the impact of ICTs in peoples’ psychological and physical wellbeing and its relation to their ability to identify and challenge the root causes of their disadvantange. This project had two sub-projects:

Mobile Information Literacy (MIL) training for librerians: Using action research, and participatory methods, I worked in partnership with a local NGO to explore the impact of the MIL training on the participants’ psychosocial wellbeing.

Mobile application for women’s empowerment: Working in partnership with UNDP Myanmar, this project evaluated the impact of a mobile application co-designed by UNDP and a rural network of women. This project explored the impacts that the co-design process and the use of the mobile application has had on the rural women’s development. Results of this work has been discussed closely with UNDP Myanmar, resulting in a report to be shared with other UN organisations and beyond.

Conscientisation and human development

My earlier research explored the links between ‘conscientisation’, a concept developed by Global South scholar Paulo Freire, is linked to processes of development, understood from a capability approach perspective, namely, what people value and have reason to value. I continue to explore this issue in my current work.


Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers


  • Poveda Villalba SC & Gatti E (2018) To enable positive behavioural change, does development need a structured approach to inspiration? A study of the iWomen Inspiring Women Project View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Kleine D, Pearson G & Poveda Villalba SC (2016) Participatory methods: engaging children’s voices and experiences in research View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Kleine D, Hollow D & Poveda Villalba SC (2014) Children, ICTs and Development: Capturing the Potential, Meeting the Challenges View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download

Theses / Dissertations

  • Poveda Villalba SC (2016) Conscientisation and Human Development: The case of digital inclusion programmes in Brazil. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download

Working papers

Dictionary/encyclopaedia entries

Teaching activities

My teaching focuses on international development and research methods.


I am a supervisor of undergraduate and postgraduate students and I am also a tutor. I am particular interested in supervising students interested in: ICT for human development; critical agency, empowerment and social structures; psychosocial wellbeing; gender, class, race, etc (intersectionality).