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De-Colonising Development: An open event for practitioners

23/06/2021 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

The racist murder of George Floyd in May 2020 galvanised international mass action. It highlighted the need for us to intensify work to expose and oppose institutional and systemic legacies of imperialism, capitalism and colonialism as expressed through socially constructed hierarchies based on ‘race,’ sex, gender, class, sexuality, religion (or lack of religion), physical (dis)ability, culture, language, and so on. These hierarchies are structural and embedded into all aspects of our society.

Many of us believe inequality is promulgated by the ‘aid’ industry under the auspices of ‘development’ and that these sectors are anchored in colonialism and white supremacy as revealed in the language used. As Terembo Cherono Maritim has said: “Going to ‘the field’ (fuels the) fantasy of going somewhere dangerous to rescue people with no autonomy or initiative. We never refer to European or North American offices as ‘the field’.”

INGO safeguarding scandals reveal a system that shores up relationships of privilege/poverty and domination/subordination under the guise of addressing inequalities. Researchers and academics from so-called ‘developing’ countries are prevented from progressing by fees demanded for processing and publishing their work. It seems to many of us that the discourse of ‘development’ exists to mask trade and foreign policy interests.

Colleagues in four LIDC member institutions  ( University College London Institute of Education, the School of Oriental and African Studies, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Birkbeck (Geography Dept) have organised this event so that we can come together with others to share ideas on harnessing our strengths to effectively challenge how power is exercised in the ‘aid’ and ‘development’ sectors. We hope it will  act as a catalyst for further inter-disciplinary collaborations as we work to decolonise development. This workshop is open to all.

Watch a recording of the event below:

Dr Carolina Matos’ presentation can be viewed below.



Session 1: Decolonising Global Health

 Speakers: Dr Ifeanyi Nsofor and Dr Ponego Lloyd Ponatshego

Moderator: Dr Nabila Youssouf (LSHTM)

The need to decolonise global health has been thrown into sharp relief by the scandal of inequitable Covid-19 vaccine distribution and the ‘othering’ of indigenous contributions to the field  of planetary health, which focus on the harmonious interconnection of the planet, the environment and human beings. We believe that global health research perpetuates existing power imbalances rooted in the colonial past and present and that this has real-life consequences for the powerless. For example, according to, 300,000 women and 2.6 million newborns die from preventable causes every year, with 99 per cent of these deaths occurring in the global south.  Recently, we have witnessed what many refer to as ‘colonialist apartheid aggression’ enacted upon Palestinians’ lives and right to health. We believe that the need to decolonise medicine is now urgent: we need a decolonised global health movement accessible to everyone, everywhere.

Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor is a global health thought leader. He has written 70 opinion pieces, including 30 on Covid-19, and co-authored 17. He is regularly interviewed by global news outlets such as BBC, Al Jazeera, Channel News Asia, Forbes, The Economist etc. Ifeanyi recently did  a podcast on decolonizing global health for LIDC. Since graduating as a medical doctor, Ifeanyi has worked in government, international non-profit organizations, indigenous non-profit health organizations and the private health sector. He helped launch two successful health start-ups in Nigeria (Nigeria Health Watch and EpiAFRIC) and is the CEO of EpiAFRIC and Director of Policy and Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch. Ifeanyi is a Senior New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute and Senior Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity at George Washington University. He was named one of  Onalytica’s  Top 100 healthcare professional globally (2020)  and one of the top 100 most influential Africans of 2020 named by NewAfrican Magazine. Ifeanyi is a TEDx Speaker and is married to Omegie. They have two daughters (Yagazie and Chimamanda) and a dog, Simba. Ifeanyi’s personal website:


Dr Ponego Lloyd Ponatshego is a physician based in Botswana. He is the Lead Physician on several research protocols looking at co-morbidities affecting people living with HIV and is currently pursuing an MSc in Global Health at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He is the COVID-19 Physician for a private-public health institute in Gaborone, Botswana, where he coordinates testing, symptoms recording and staff work clearance post-exposure.


Dr Nabila Youssouf joined LSHTM as a Trial Manager/Research Fellow in 2015 in the Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health. In 2017, she transitioned to the Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases in an International Trial Manager role which entailed a move to Botswana, where she still resides. Nabila has been collaborating with various Decolonising groups at LSHTM since their inceptions and has special interests in science communication and widening access to scientific information to the general public. @LSHTM



Session 2:  Decolonising  our Global Heritage

Speaker: Onyekachi Wambu

Moderator: Charine John (LIDC)

European and North American museums benefit from the display of objects obtained during the age of empire and colonisation. Many, like the Benin Bronzes and the Maqdala treasures, were seized by force and displayed as trophies. Others, including human remains, were obtained in essentially fraudulent transactions where sellers had little choice. Artefacts whose provenance is ‘lost’ are in private collections, exchanging hands for huge sums. We believe that by claiming ownership of looted objects, museums continue to uphold the same colonial racial and civilisational hierarchies which informed and justified the expansion of colonial rule in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Onyekachi Wambu is a former newspaper editor and television producer. Since 1990 Onyekachi has led work on African cultural heritage, focusing on the impact of slavery and colonialism. He advised the late Bernie Grant MP, Chair of the African Reparations Movement (ARM) on African and cultural issues and in1995 founded African Remembrance Day. He has made high-level presentations and recommendations on African culture and heritage issues to the United Nations and African Union. He currently Executive Director at AFFORD, a charity working to enhance the contributions Africans in the diaspora make to Africa’s development. AFFORD is a pioneer and innovator in the field of policy and practice of ‘diaspora development’ and the initiation of new policies, funds and schemes by institutions including the European Union, The African Union, DFID, The World Bank, IOM & Comic Relief. @AFFORD_UK

Onyekachi was educated at the University of Essex and holds an M.Phil in International Relations at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His publications include Under the Tree of Talking: Leadership for Change in Africa (ed) and Empire Windrush: 50 years of writing about black Britain (ed).

Charine John is Communications Coordinator at LIDC, which she joined in 2015 after 11 years as Student Life Coordinator with Syracuse University’s London Program.  Charine’s role at LIDC includes events, public engagement, marketing and social media. She grew up in Sierra Leone and is passionate about the history of her community, the Krios, and about the inter-linked histories of all African-descended people living with the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and Colonialism. Charine has worked as a caseworker for the IRC/USRRO in Sierra Leone and helped set up the country’s Tourist Board. She holds an MA from Birkbeck (Culture, Diaspora and Ethnicity) and has a long history as an anti-racist campaigner and human rights defender and is a proud (although occasionally despairing) supporter of Arsenal FC. @CharineJohn


Session 3: Decolonising Development Theory and Practice: the role of Religious Knowledge

Speakers: Dr Romina Istratii and Henok Hailu 

Moderator: Dr Jasmine Gideon (BBK-Geography)

Development studies and practice increasingly acknowledge the need to integrate faith and religious beliefs in development work in low- and middle-income societies (LMICs.) Major development organisations collaborate with faith-based leaders to better address issues ranging from conflict to HIV/AIDS and gender inequality. Yet considerable work remains to be done to overcome Eurocentric conceptualisations of ‘religion’ and how its relationship to ‘culture’ has been theorised historically. In this session, the speakers will discuss some of the theoretical colonial underpinnings that hinder development practice discuss the critical decolonial approach being followed by project dldl/ድልድል, a project that works to strengthen and develop religio-culturally sensitive domestic violence systems in Ethiopia, Eritrea and the UK. They discuss the need for nuancing and contextualising the study of issues of international relevance such as domestic violence across diverse religio-cultural contexts and the need for reflexive, humble and trust-based partnerships to reverse historical and ongoing hierarchical and colonial  relationships in development research, knowledge transfer and practice.

Dr Romina Istratii is UKRI Future Leaders Fellow at the School of History, Religions and Philosophies at SOAS. She is a critical researcher and practitioner with ten years’ experience in international development. Her work focuses on developing cosmology-sensitive and people-centred methodologies and approaches to address issues with gender dimensions in religious societies of Africa, Asia and other regions. Romina is currently Principal Investigator of the UKRI-funded research and innovation project “Bridging religious studies, gender & development and public health to address domestic violence: A novel approach for Ethiopia, Eritrea and the UK” awarded in 2020. The project is dedicated to the development and strengthening of religio-culturally sensitive domestic violence alleviation systems in Ethiopia, Eritrea and the UK. Romina is also Honorary Research Associate to the Department of Development Studies and the Centre of World Christianity at SOAS. @_decolonise.

Henok Hailu Ayele is Counselling Psychologist and President of The Ethiopian Psychologists Association and is based at Addis Ababa University’s College of Health, and a member of of dldl/ድልድSpeል .He holds an MA in Counseling Psychology from Addis Ababa University. He is also Head of the Clinical Psychology Masters Program at Department of Psychiatry at Black Lion Hospital, Addis Ababa and member of the COVID-19 Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Advisory Council of the Ministry of Health. Henok founded and was Clinical Lead of Abrehot Psychological Services and prior to that he  worked at The Nia Foundation/ Joy Center for Autism.


Dr Jasmine Gideon is a Reader in Gender, Health, and International Development in the Department of Geography, Birkbeck, University of London. Her current research focuses on the gendered implications of contemporary trends in privatisation of healthcare including PPPs. She was the Principal Investigator on an ESRC Global Challenges Research funded strategic network ‘Equalities in Public Private Partnerships’ (EQUIPPPs). Recent publications include Motherhood, Social Policies, and Women’s Activism in Latin America (2020, co-edited with Alejandra Ramm) and International Handbook on Gender & Health (2016), as well as several articles in peer-reviewed journals including ‘Public-private partnerships in sexual and reproductive healthcare provision: establishing a gender analysis’, Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy (2017, with Benjamin F Hunter and Susan Fairley Murray). @bbkgeography

Session 4: Decolonising ‘Gender’ in ‘Development’

Speaker: Dr Sanaa Alimia and Dr Carolina Matos

Moderator: Dr Laila Kadiwal (UCL-IoE)

The principle of equality of men and women was recognised in the UN Charter in 1945 and the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, yet women’s positions remain under-addressed as ‘development’ planners presumed that what would benefit one section of society (men) would trickle down to the other (women).

By attacking indigenous values and communities, the hetero-patriarchy of colonialism and capitalism forced assimilation and in turn, erased identities. This process has continued, often subtly, in ‘development.’ We believe a ‘decolonised’ approach to gender and sexuality, coupled with the process of contesting and reframing narratives by those with historical privilege and power, is an important step in equalizing our society and making reparations. As part of this, we must confront the elitism inherent in the current Northern hegemonic approach to how feminism is often articulated, professionalised and bureaucratised. We need also acknowledge and confront the widespread oppression of LGBTQI+ people in areas where colonialism and capitalism introduced laws criminalising homosexuality and ‘sexual deviancy.’

Dr Sanaa Alimia is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Aga Khan University, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC), London. Her work centers on migration, surveillance, and urbanity. Her manuscript, “The Afghan Question” (University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming 2022), tells the story of how refugees and undocumented migrants have transformed Pakistan.Prior to joining the AKU-ISMC, she was a research fellow at Leibniz Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO), Berlin (recipient of the Dahlem Research Fellowship); Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Peshawar; and a Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS, London. Her teaching interests focus on international relations, racism, and decolonisation. @SanaaAlimia.


*We are very sorry to announce that we have been informed that Dr Matos is now unable to join us for today’s event due to unforeseen circumstances. She has shared her presentation which will be uploaded soon. Please join us in sending her all best wishes *

Dr Carolina Matos is a Senior Lecturer in Media and Sociology with nearly 30 years of professional experience, in academia and journalism, having been a former full-time journalist for over 10 years before becoming an academic. Matos has been teaching and researching for over 18 years in universities throughout the UK and has also been a visiting researcher abroad. Before joining City in 2013, Matos taught at the University of Essex, LSE, Goldsmiths and UEL as a part-time lecturer and also VL. Dr Matos obtained her PhD in Media and Communications from Goldsmiths College, University of London, in January 2007, with a thesis on the relationship between journalism and democracy in Brazil. Matos’ research is on media, gender and development, the role of communications for social change and of new technologies, media, democracy and the public sphere as well as health communications, poverty and sexual and reproductive health and rights.@carolamatos


How are women’s bodies depicted in development? This talk aims to assess the state of the field of gender and development and argue that despite the rhetorical shift to “women’s agency” and “empowerment”, criticisms made by post-colonial scholars and other feminists on how women have been included in development, from the representation of women from developing countries to discourses around female bodies, have remained problematic. Within the context of contemporary debates on “decolonising” knowledge in the West, from universities to other key institutions, it is important to examine from a historical perspective how much has actually changed and what stereotypes continue to persist in the present, at a moment when the development industry seeks to “decolonise” and construct more equitable partnerships between governments, NGOs and other partners in the North and the South in pursuit of global gender justice.

Dr Laila Kadiwal is a Lecturer in Education and International Development at the UCL Institute of Education.  She works on the intersections of identity and education in conflict-affected settings. She has researched India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and the UK. Dr Kadiwal has specialist interests in the role of education in Muslim contexts.

Dr Kadiwal  co-founded Decolonising Education and International Development Study Group at the UCL Institute of Education ( She also co-directs Best Foot Music (, an intercultural music and arts organisation. It connects musicians displaced by war with extensive music networks and communities in the.  @LailaKadiwal UK@IOE_London @CEID_IOE



Moderator: Dr. Penny Vera-Sanso (Birkbeck – Geography Department)

We invite you all to join us for this brief (>15 mins) of reflection: an opportunity for the Panellists –  to share some final thoughts. Please note: although this session will be moderated, it is not a Q+A. If appropriate, and time permitting, we may be able to accommodate reflections from guests. 

Penny Vera-Sanso is a Senior Lecturer in International Development and Social Anthropology at Birkbeck, University of London. She has 30 years’ experience researching later life in India and has led international multi-disciplinary research projects funded by several UK Research Councils. She takes an historically-informed, multi-scalar approach to understanding how relations of inequality (age, class, gender and caste) not only shape livelihoods and inter-generational relations but feed into local, national and international economies. Penny’s empirical research grounds her interrogation of the ageism embedded in academic theorising and public and policy discourses. She is currently working with a Southern African network, COPSAN, researching later life care and carers and is Lead Convenor of the British Society of Gerontology’s Special Interest Group in Ageing in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Indicative Schedule


Welcoming remarks
09.57-10.05 Housekeeping
10.05-11.30 Decolonising Global Health
11.30-11.45: Break Break
11.45-1pm Decolonising our Heritage
1pm-2pm Lunch
2pm-3.15 Religion in Global Health, Humanitarian Aid and Development
3.15- 3.30 Break
3.30-4.15 Gender (In) Development
4.15-4.30 Break
4.30-5pm Final Reflections, Announcements, Closing Remarks

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More information


LIDC, LSHTM, Birkbeck (Geog), SOAS, UCL-IOE

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