The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2019 | Investigating the Interface between Maternal Health, Wellbeing and Work in Emerging Economies
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Investigating the Interface between Maternal Health, Wellbeing and Work in Emerging Economies

Principal supervisor: Dr Hannah Bargawi, SOAS University of London

Co-supervisors: Professor Veronique Filippi, LSHTM, University of London

Award includes tuition fees and a stipend of £16,777 including London Weighting (at 2018/19 rates, so slightly higher for 2019 entry)

100% FTE for 3 years, from September 2019.

Project Description:

At present, women are not achieving their full potential because of persistent gender, social and financial barriers in accessing health services, decent work and social protection, issues that are heightened during childbearing. In 2015, 303000 women died during or after pregnancy and millions more suffered obstetric complications and poor nutrition. Moreover, the interaction between high level of maternal health problems and poor working conditions can have lasting adverse consequences for themselves, their children and their family particularly among the poorest. Such tensions between reproduction and production (maternal health needs and women’s work) present an intractable challenge, especially in low and middle income countries, that place low priority on gender equality, women’s work and maternity and social protection.

Our understanding of the interactions between women’s health and wellbeing on the one hand and their labour market attachment and work situation on the other remains weak because research has remained within disciplinary boundaries. Development and labour economists have focused on labour markets, social protection systems and women’s changing situation within the formal and informal labour market (including pay, conditions of work, managing unpaid care responsibilities and paid work etc.).

Meanwhile epidemiologists and maternal health experts have focused on women’s health and wellbeing during pregnancy and the postpartum period separate from their labour market attachment or the broader maternity and social protection systems available.

We are seeking a PhD researcher to bridge these areas of research, investigating how health, well-being and work inter-relate, in particular for pregnant women and new mothers in low and middle income countries.

Proposed methodology:

We propose novel interdisciplinary research that will consider the interaction between women’s health and wellbeing and their working lives and maternity and social protection systems in one populous, low or middle-income case study country (such as Bangladesh, China, Egypt, or South Africa).


It is expected that the project will involve three main outputs over 3 years (beginning in September 2019).


The first output will be a comprehensive country case study, including consultation and analysis of available secondary data and a literature review, covering the following themes: i) maternal and perinatal health; ii) women’s work and employment; iii) the relationship between health, wellbeing and work during pregnancy and the postpartum period; iv) maternity and social protection policies.


The second major output will be a tool for measuring the interaction between maternal health, wellbeing and work. This will require a mapping of social protection systems and the landscape surrounding labour markets, gender equality, health systems and maternal well-being.


The third and final output will emerge from a period of fieldwork in the chosen case study country. This will involve either qualitative research or an evaluation of a particular policy intervention relating to maternity and/or social protection.

Subject Areas/Keywords:

Women’s work; gender; health and wellbeing; public health; social protection systems; SDG 5; SDG 8; SDG 3.

Candidate requirements (if appropriate):

Candidates should have a strong academic track record including a Master’s degree in a relevant subject (e.g. Sexual and Reproductive Health, Demography, Economics, Development Economics, Gender Studies, Development Studies, Public Health or Anthropology).

The studentship would suit candidates with interests across development and gender economics, public health and social protection. Applicants should have strong quantitative and/ or qualitative research skills and an eagerness to develop these skills further.

Previous experience in a particular low or middle-income country or countries would be advantageous. The candidate should be willing and able to spend some time in their chosen case study country as part of the research project. Possible case study countries include Bangladesh, China, Egypt or South Africa or another country to be decided by student and supervisors together.

In addition to research methods training, the successful candidate will be encouraged to take advantage of relevant courses available at both SOAS and LSHTM. Language training is also available.

The studentship is for a duration of 3 years and will cover course fees (at the usual level for UK and EU studentships) and a student stipend (£16,777 per annum for 2018/19.)


Applicants from non-EU countries may apply for this project but will be required to meet the additional costs of overseas fees from other sources.The difference between overseas fees (£17,967) and UK/EU fees (£4,396) for a full-time research degree is £13,571 for 2019-20.

Key References:

Machiyama, K
; Hirose, A; Cresswell, JA; Barreix, M; Chou, D; Kostanjsek, N; Say, L; Filippi, V; (2017) Consequences of maternal morbidity on health-related functioning: a systematic scoping review. BMJ open, 7 (6). e013903. ISSN 2044-6055 DOI:

Sholkamy H. (2012) “How private lives determine work options: Reflections on poor women’s employment in Egypt”. In: Buğra A, Özkan Y, editors. Trajectories of female employment in the Mediterranean. London: Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 114–135.

UN Women (2018) Turning promises into action: Gender equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UN WOMEN: New York.

Cameron, L. (2014) Social protection programs for women in developing countries. IZA World of Labor 2014: 14 doi: 10.15185/izawol.14

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Principal supervisor: Dr. Hannah Bargawi on

Research webpage:

Co-Supervisor: Professor Veronique Filippi

Research webpage:

Further information about Research degrees in  Anthropology & Sociology is available from:


Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

Candidates wishing to apply for this fully funded three-year, full-time PhD studentship starting September 2019 must complete both an admissions application and a studentship application. These are separate processes.

STEP 1: Admissions Application

Apply for the Research Degrees programme in Economics using SOAS’s online admissions form. See


for information and ‘Apply Online’ link.


Applicants must submit a complete online application for admission as soon as possible and no later than the studentship deadline (16:00 UK time, Thursday, 14 March 2019).


Further guidance for applying for admission to the MPhil/PhD programme and documents you need to submit is available at


IMPORTANT: Please state in the admissions application that you wish to be considered for the Bloomsbury Colleges PhD Studentship, use the title of the studentship (project title: Investigating the Interface between Maternal Health, Wellbeing and Work in Emerging Economies) as your Research Proposal Title and state Dr Hannah Bargawi as your Proposed Supervisor.


Use your Supporting Statement to explain why you are motivated to apply for this particular project, and what skills and experience you will bring to the project. In your 2,000 word Research Proposal please respond to the project description and elaborate on how you would approach the project theoretically and methodologically based on your previous academic training and experience.


STEP 2: Studentship Application

Apply for the Bloomsbury Colleges Studentship by completing and submitting the application form the application form


to by no later than 16:00 UK time, Thursday, 14 March 2019.


Closing date for applications is: 16:00 UK time, Thursday, 14 March 2019.