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Biography

IMG_1936 (1)Dr. Kathleen O’Reilly is a feminist geographer and South Asia scholar with extensive WASH field experience. Using a political ecology approach and ethnographic methods, she studies the implications of changing water resource governance and the impacts of sanitation interventions for marginal groups, particularly women and lowest castes. Her research is based in India, where she has worked for the past 20 years.

Kathleen’s earliest research focused on community and women’s participation in drinking water supply management, and was followed up in 2008 with a study investigating drinking water sustainability after the project’s closure. The National Science Foundation supported research across 2005-2009 explored the effects of development projects for the NGOs fieldworkers who implement them, and resulted in a better understanding of how global-scale development policies are locally transformed and spatialized through the actions of NGO fieldworkers.

More recently Kathleen’s focus has shifted to sanitation. Her research project titled ‘Human Waste and Human Welfare: A Political Ecology Approach to Sanitation in Rural India’ is funded by NSF CAREER Award (2010- 2016). It is a multi-sited study that aims to identify the ecological factors, social norms, economic contexts, and everyday political geographies influencing the building and usage latrines in rural India. At its heart, the study asks the question, ‘Why do people who have latrines not use them?’

A second project titled ‘Successful Sanitation Habits in Rural India’ was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2011- 2014). This project examined successful sanitation habits across generations in two rural Indian states.

PI with women in RV2

A third project funded by the UK Department for International Development and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) (2013- 2014) was in collaboration with Seema Kulkarni of Society For Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM) located in Pune, India. It examined urban poor women’s experiences and fears of gendered violence due to inadequate sanitation in two Indian cities. Publications from these research projects are available under the ‘Publications’ tab on this website.

A fourth and fifth projects are collaborative studies with a team of international scholars and activists on women’s experiences of psycho-social stress due to violence surrounding access to sanitation and open defecation in rural India. These two projects have been funded by: 3ie; the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council; Sanitation and Hygiene Research for Equity; and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

These research experiences have convinced Kathleen that multi-disciplinary research has the potential to make the greatest impact on improving sanitation and therefore, public health, in the global south.

In addition to research, Kathleen teaches undergraduate and graduate courses at Texas A&M University. She enjoys collaborating with students and young professionals as a way to mentor a new generation of scholars.

Questions and Answer with School Girls, Rajasthan, India

Questions and Answer with School Girls, Rajasthan, India

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