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The Network of Women Doing Fieldwork

Dr Ana Laura Zavala Guillen, Co-Founder

During the COVID-19 pandemic, three former PhD students at the Geography Department of the University of Sheffield, Ana Laura Zavala Guillen, Itzel San Roman Pineda, and Jenny Veenstra, founded the Network of Women Doing Fieldwork. What started as an online and informal safe space for mutual support against gender-based violence experienced during research became a women's activist movement across social and environmental sciences and arts based on five continents.

The Network of Women Doing Fieldwork (NWDF) envisions a world where women researchers can conduct fieldwork free from violence, with dignity and joy, and with the right support from their institutions and funders. With this vision, the NWDF collaborates with academic institutions and funding bodies to improve well-being and safety in the field from a gender-based approach.

For example, in 2021, the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) from the University College London partnered with the NWDF to produce a report to assess and improve mechanisms that prevent and mitigate the risk of gender-based violence against PhD researchers who are collecting data away from their home institutions. The report, Confronting Gender-Based Violence in Fieldwork: Potential Sites of Intervention within DPU’s PhD Programme, can be found here.

Furthermore, in 2023, the NWDF delivered a series of workshops, Feeling the Field, for the British Academy Early Career Researcher Network. These workshops delved into the connections between bodies and research to explore how researchers navigate the ubiquitous risk of violence in the field. The workshops used an artistic and geographical method known as cuerpo territorio, or body-mapping. This method, based on Latin-American feminist decolonial theory, enabled researchers working across disciplines in field sites worldwide to reflect on the emotions they experienced whilst collecting data.

The NWDF is currently designing workshops in decolonising the curricula for Kings College London and writing book chapters for manuals in fieldwork research and feminist geography.

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