Our Core Staff

Dr. Elisabet le Roux - URDR Research Director.

Email: eleroux@sun.ac.za


Tel: +27 21 808 9248


Elisabet's focus is on the intersection between faith and development, particularly as it relates to gender issues. She has masters degrees in Translation and in Theology (Clinical Pastorate and HIV), and her relates to gender issues. She has masters degrees in Translation and in Theology (Clinical Pastorate and HIV), and her PhD (in Sociology) was on sexual violence against women during armed conflict, and the role of African churches. She has  ten years research experience in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. In 2013 she was  runner-up in the Women in Science Awards around violence towards women.

Dr. Selina Palm - URDR Researcher

 Email: spalm@sun.ac.za 

CV - SPalm.

Tel: +27 21 808 9248


Dr Palm's focus is on the intersection between religion and human rights and its implications for children, women and marginalised sexualities. She holds a PhD in Theology and Development from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal focusing on the role of churches in building a human rights culture in current day South Africa. She holds masters degrees in both interdisciplinary human rights and theology and a degree in business. She has more than 12 years development experience as a senior NGO projects manager within sub-Saharan Africa with a focus on HIV/AIDS and children's rights. She is also a university lecturer, a youth leader and a qualified Gender Reconciliation Facilitator and has published on the role of hope in social transformation, religion and human rights and youth formation.

 Prof. Nadine Bowers Du Toit  - URDR Director

Email:  nbowers@sun.ac.za


Prof. Bowers Du Toit is Associate Professor in 'Theology and Development' in the Department of Practical Theology and Missiology at the University of Stellenbosch (SU). She holds an MTh (2002) and PhD in Theology (2005) specializing in Development from SU and has published in the fields of theology and development, gender and ethics.  She is currently chairperson of the Practical Theology Society of South Africa and deputy chair of the International Society for Research and Study of Diaconia and Social Practice (REDI). She has received grants for several projects in the field of faith and development with her most recent URDR-related research entitled “Does faith matter?” Besides lecturing, publishing and supervising post graduate students, Nadine is often invited to address congregations, church leaders and FBOs on the church’s role in development. She serves on the board of two local FBOs and is the faculty representative at the Senate Committee for Social Impact at SU.

Ms. Sheurl Davis - Research Assistant

Email: urdr@sun.ac.za


Sheurl Davis's focus is on social justice community development and gender equality. She is currently pursuing her Master's Degree in Theology with a specific focus on gender and health at Stellenbosch University. Sheurl has ample experience working with youth and plays a vital role in her congregation creating a space for gender equality and inclusive affirmation.

Our Approach

The Unit for Religion and Development Research (URDR) is an interdisciplinary research unit based at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. It empowers communities, organisations and governments for development through evidence-based research, theory building from below and capacity building through education and training. The URDR offers a unique research space, positioned within multiple worlds, with a focus on social transformation and sustainable development. This enables it to sensitively navigate the faith and secular divides still prevalent in development work today; to nurture cooperation between the worlds of theory and practice, academies and faith institutions, and government and civil society; and to offer multi-sectoral, interdisciplinary approaches to the complex issues surrounding key sustainable development goals. Working across the world, the URDR has received multiple University Flagship Project awards for its Community Interaction and Social Impact model. For more on our specific approach to religion and development, click here and here.

“Human ordeals thrive on ignorance. To understand a problem with clarity is already halfway towards solving it”. Amartya Sen

Our History

The URDR was founded in 2002 at Stellenbosch University with a focus on nurturing evidence-based good practice. It emerged in response to the need to equip faith communities in particular to play an ongoing, effective role in social transformation in post-apartheid South Africa. A critical religious development discourse was required to meet new challenges and contexts, to map and understand emerging trends and to equip faith communities to play an effective role alongside other actors in sustainable community development. The URDR helped pioneer a fourth-generation approach that emphasized quality and improved people-centred development practice. Over the last fourteen years, it has offered a range of services including quality of life surveys, database and handbook development, baseline and endline surveys, safety audits, scoping studies, design of participatory research tools and protocols, community worker and field researcher trainings, design and delivery of post-graduate courses and impact tracking and evaluations. It delivers primary and secondary qualitative and quantative research across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas and has developed expertise in core focus areas. For more about its projects click here.

"Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance." Ban Ki-Moon