As a feminist activist and researcher for two decades, Sara's doctoral research collaborates with Col·lectiu Punt 6, a Barcelona-based non-profit organization, to place the experience and knowledge of women in the center of urban planning. Sara's participatory project includes women as active producers of knowledge and action to create safer and more mobile cities for all.

Research Description

My research seeks to study how the everyday/everynight life of self-identified women working at night is included in urban planning. In particular, I would like to examine two interrelated aspects of planning that affect women's everynight life: fear/safety, and mobility, both through the lens of intersectional feminism. I want to explore how perceptions of fear and safety are attached to sociocultural constructions of gendered bodies in the public space and as a result, influence women's mobility and their right to the city at night. Using feminist participatory action research as a methodology, I also want to enable women night workers' participation in planning policies. I will collaborate with women working the nightshift in hospitals, airports, the street and other night work areas in the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona, Spain.

This is a zone that combines pockets of night activity (hospitals, airport, industrial zone, sex work) and confronts mobility challenges because of poor nocturnal connections between Barcelona and the metropolitan region. I am conducting the research with Col·lectiu Punt 6, a non-profit organization that works to include an intersectional feminist perspective in urban planning through participatory methodologies that place everyday life and women’s knowledge in the center of planning. Col·lectiu Punt 6 is engaging with some women’s groups in the area of study that will participate in this project, such as sex workers advocacy organizations, women’s chapters of local unions, and organizations that provide workforce development training to female night workers.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

I feel extremely honored to be part of a network of students and faculty members working in publicly-engaged research; this is a unique opportunity to share experiences and mentorship. The Public Scholars Initiative can bring us additional support for students like me who conduct non-traditional dissertations. The PSI means to feel accompanied and guided throughout the process of doing this type of research.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

I think this initiative acknowledges that not all PhD students want to pursue an academic career and that the career possibilities are diverse after submitting a PhD dissertation. This recognition is a major step forward to support Public Scholars and other students with similar career paths.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

After my PhD I would like to continue working with feminist community and grassroots organizations; I hope that the PhD helps me learn ways of better connecting research and practice, and at the end improving people's lives.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

The research project will include an advisory committee integrated by people who represent the different groups and organizations involved in this project. The overview and guidance of this committee will help connect this project with the work each organization develops, as well as with the larger community and civil society.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

My work can help make visible and include women’s everyday lives and contributions to urban planning; identify barriers that challenge women’s everyday/everynight life public recognition; generate women's self-awareness, empowerment and organizing to influence planning policies at the local and regional level; and influence planning and public policy engagement between city/region decision-makers and female night workers through an action plan resulting of the FPAR process.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Working with Col·lectiu Punt 6, I became motivated to enroll in a PhD program to connect feminist planning practice with planning research and theory. The PhD program is helping me gain specialized knowledge and tools in urban planning to further facilitate work with community and grassroots organizations.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

Community organizations and universities in Canada have generated innovative research and practical tools on gender dynamics in cities. The School of Community and Regional Planning in particular has a long tradition emphasizing community service and empowerment, and the democratization of planning. I feel privileged to have a supervisory committee with wide expertise in feminist research and participatory methodologies.


After my PhD I would like to continue working with feminist community and grassroots organizations.