Sylvia Chant

1959 - 2019

The career of feminist development geographer Sylvia Chant was cut short on December 18, 2019 at age 60, when she died of pancreatic cancer. As reported in her obituary in The Guardian,during her career, Chant challenged the received notion that households headed by women in developing countries were automatically more likely to live in poverty than those headed by men. Chant argued that multiple household responsibilities and obligations in relation to men were the greater challenge to women’s lives and success.

Her books include Women-headed Households(1997) and Gender, Generation and Poverty(2007). Writing of her in The Guardian, colleague Cathy McIlwaine described Chant as “keen to work with other researchers[. S]he co-authored and edited 11 of her 18 books, including four that we wrote together, of which the most recent was Cities, Slums and Gender in the Global South (2016). She edited the International Handbook of Gender and Poverty (2010), whose more than 100 chapters came from 125 established and early career authors.

As a professor at the London School of Economics, Chant was known as an inspiring and generous teacher, who influenced many PhD students to work on gender and international development around the world.

Her ideas around women-headed households and wider gender inequalities helped shape the policies of international agencies such as the Commonwealth Secretariat, UN-Habitat, the International Labour Organization, UN Women, and the World Bank. Her work with the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children contributed to the country’s final outlawing of female genital mutilation in 2015.

Born in Dundee, Chant grew up in London and earned a geography degree from King’s College, Cambridge in 1981. She attained her PhD at University College London in 1984, studying the role of women in the construction of housing in Querétaro, Mexico. McIlwaine noted, “This was among the first studies that recognised women as key actors in self-build housing in poor urban communities in countries of the global south.”

She is survived by her husband Chris Mogridge, her mother, June, and two sisters, Adrienne and Yvonne.