The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Alaa Assani

Learn about Alaa Assani, Development Planning MPhil/PhD student starting her studies in 2023.

Alaa Assani

About Alaa Assani

Here is Alaa Assani, a Syrian student of the Development Planning MPhil/PhD course at The Bartlett Development Planning Unit. Alaa is a native Arabic speaker, is fluent in English, and speaks Turkish (intermediate) and French (basic). Alaa is also a scholar of The Bartlett Promise PhD Scholarship

Alaa's thesis is focused on feminism, urban planning, housing, land and property rights, displacement, and post-conflict. 

My name is Alaa Assani, a PhD student at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) at UCL. I hold an MSc in Development Planning and Administration from DPU, UCL, and my dissertation title was ‘’ The gendered Impact of conflict and its relation to housing, lands and property rights on Syrian displaced women. My background is in Computer Engineering from the University of Aleppo. 

The focus of Alaa's research

My PhD research endeavours to investigate the evolution of discourse surrounding 'Housing, Land, and Property (HLP) rights' within the context of development in displacement, conflict, and post-conflict situations, with a particular emphasis on intersectional feminist perspectives. The study critically examines the intended market of this discourse and the underlying agendas it serves. Furthermore, it conducts an in-depth critical analysis of the limitations inherent in the concept of ‘’HLP rights’’ and assesses whether intersectional feminist frameworks are being effectively employed to address these limitations. 
The research also seeks to gain a nuanced understanding of the intricacies associated with each facet of HLP rights concerning the advancement of gender equality, both in theory and in practice. This exploration involves an examination of the root causes and an analysis of the interplay among the concepts of gender, ownership, empowerment, and displacement. The study investigates whether these interrelationships have an impact on women's participation in decision-making processes and the realisation of gender equality objectives to advance gender-transformative justice. 
The case study of this research is Syria, with a particular focus on the rights of displaced women. I’ll be studying this topic and its relation to refugees' return to their places of origin, forced displacement as a result of violating housing and rights, urban planning, social norms and discriminative laws that hinder Syrian women from accessing their rights.  

Alaa's professional experiences

I have 12 years of professional experience working in the INGO sector in conflict contexts in the MENA region, mainly on Syria, with UN agencies (UNICEF, UNHCR), European development agencies (GIZ, Expertise France), and International organisations such as (the Danish Refugee Council, No Peace Without Justice, Women International League for Peace and Freedom, Chemonics International, Christian Aid, Kvinna till Kvinna) occupying different positions, as Programme Manager, technical advisor, Team Programme lead.  
My professional experience is mainly in project management, focusing on the areas of Human rights and justice, Gender, stabilisation and development, feminist movements, advocacy, gender and housing, lands and property Rights with a focus on feminist partnership, bottom-up, Local-led approaches, and Survivors' Community-Led Responses and applying feminist principles,  localisation and decolonisation, empowerment efforts by supporting the work of Women-Led Organisations, Civil Society organisations, and grassroots initiatives. 

More about Alaa

In my spare time, as a proud mother, I enjoy my time with my family and playing with my little son Sam; I love travel, food, photography, and socialisation. 

Alaa's awards and fellowships

Scholarship awards: 

  • The Bartlett Promise PhD Scholarship, funded by UCL (2023)
  • Chevening Global Leaders Scholarship, funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (2020)

Fellowship awards: 

  • Non-Resident Fellow at Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) (2023-24)
  • UNSC 1325 Women In Conflict at Beyond Borders Scotland, Scotland (2020)
  • The Young Leaders Visitors Programme at the Swedish Institute, Sweden (2018)

Primary supervisor: Dr Kamna Patel

Secondary supervisor: Dr Paroj Banerjee

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