The field of women’s studies and gender studies is relatively young in comparison to other educational pursuits. Professor Reddock has been at the forefront of Women’s studies for decades. Kreol looks at her accomplishments.
Today we are much more aware of the contribution of women to global history through the work of feminist historians and social historians who integrate gender into their analyses. This has also been true in the Caribbean where historians have done much to dispel myths and to bring new understandings of the past but this is still a work in progress. Great strides have also been made in relation to equal opportunity and access, and young women, in the region, have taken advantage of the opportunities available to them. At the same time though, women, on average, still earn less than men, are more likely to be unemployed and gender-based violence is a major concern in a context of high levels of violence generally in the region. For many women, the economic challenges continue to be critical.
“The field of gender studies is relatively young compared to other disciplines, and there has been much progress in this regard in the Caribbean, in particular at the University of the West Indies, where the Institute for Gender and Development Studies now has units on each campus. One of the early contributors to this field is Rhoda Elizabeth Reddock who along with her colleagues has been involved in re-thinking how knowledge is produced and how this knowledge can be used to transform and improve human interactions and contribute to gender equity and social justice”.
Professor Reddock is a citizen of the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, where her educational path to sociology, development studies and gender studies started. After primary school education at Eastern Girls Government School in the heart of East Port of Spain and secondary education at Bishop Anstey High School; she completed a Bachelor of Science in Social Administration at the University of West Indies (UWI), attending the St. Augustine and Mona campuses in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica respectively. She observed
“… from very early I had a concern with social transformation. I wasn’t interested in focussing on helping individuals but rather in exploring how social policy and social institutions could address the structural challenges facing our societies in the region. Today I understand better that these processes are also gendered.”
From there, her educational pursuit took her across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. She completed a Masters in Development Studies at the Institute of Social Studies at The Hague, before completing a doctoral degree in Applied Sociology at the University of Amsterdam, Degrees are a lot like official titles; they sound impressive, but mean nothing if you don’t use them to effect change in the world.
Upon completion of her doctorate, Professor Reddock returned home, to Trinidad and Tobago, in 1985,to work first as a research fellow at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of West Indies, St. Augustine campus. After five years in that role, she brought her knowledge to bear in the classroom as a lecturer in the
Department of Sociology in 1990.
After years of active involvement in the process, she played a vital role in the institutionalization of gender studies at the UWI between 1985 and 1993. In 1994 she assumed the position of Head of the Centre for Gender and Development Studies1, St. Augustine, one of three campus based units of this new UWI entity.
During her time as a researcher, teacher, and lecturer, Professor Reddock’s interests have been multidisciplinary in nature. Although she covered diverse areas of study, she did focus on some key areas such as – Caribbean women’s movement history, women’s work and labour, the gender implications of global economic development; gender, race, and citizenship; feminist theory, environmental studies; gender and sexualities and Caribbean masculinities. This work reflects her early concern with recovering the lost history of women and women’s work and her later broad interest in gender equity, justice and social change.
Her achievements in the field of professional services include serving as a member and former president of the Research Committee 32 – Women and Society of the International Sociological Association, and also as a member of the Research Committee on Race and Ethnic Studies. She has also served as a member of the Executive Council and later the Advisory Board of the Caribbean Studies Association, and is currently a member of the Latin American Studies Association and an international member of the American Sociological Association.
Her activities include advisory and consulting roles with numerous organizations. She serves as an advisor to the Global Fund for Women, and was previously a member of the Regional Advisory Committee of the Global Coalition on Women, Girls, and AIDS established by UNAIDS. On a global scale, she has served as a consultant to various regional and international agencies including, but not limited to the, the CARICOM Secretariat, European Union, Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Development Programme, UNWOMEN and the Association for Women in Development (AWID).
Service to the Women’s Movement
Professor Reddock’s career includes professional accomplishments stemming from her research and work at the university level. However, there always seems to be time in her life to give more of herself to the cause of women’s rights, the women’s movement, and the general improvement of life for women around the globe. While some might leave their passion in the classroom, studying and teaching the next generation, Professor Reddock has taken her activism to the next level. She has been a prominent figure in the Caribbean and was swept up in activity as the global women’s movement swept through the region. Two of her fondest memories are attending the 4th World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985 and the 5th World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995 and the feeling of being part of an exciting and diverse global movement. She was one of the founding members of the regional organization, the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), serving as the first chair of the group. She was also a founding member of the Caribbean Network on Studies of Masculinity.
Recently she was able to bring her research and activism together in the Action Research Project –
Breaking the Silence: A Multisectoral Approach to Ending Child Sexual Abuse, which led to the campaign – Break the Silence: end Child Sexual Abuse which has now become a regional campaign supported by UNICEF Caribbean2.
Throughout her career, Professor Reddock has worked hard to spread the word of gender equality and feminist knowledge, beyond the walls of her classrooms. To date, she has written or edited eight books, three monographs, four special journal issues, and over seventy peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Two of her books garnered awards from critics and publishers. In addition to roles on advisory boards, hosting successful lecture series, and the publication of countless written works, she has also received numerous awards in recognition of her hard work. Among these are: the Seventh CARICOM Triennial Award for Women (2002) and the US Department of State International Women of Courage Award (2008).
Among her more recent honours was an honorary doctorate from the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, presented in May 2012. That same year, she was awarded the Medal for the Development of Women’s Rights and Issues Gold (Higher Education) in the National Honours of Trinidad and Tobago.
Women need more people willing to step forward, to break down barriers – and work for equality and justice for all in modern society. In recent decades, women have experienced greater success in the workplace, respect in society, and equal pay for their work. There is still a long way for society to go in the pursuit of more just and equitable relations for all and between men and women. But until that day arrives, women can rest assured knowing that Professor Reddock is imparting wisdom to younger generations, and all those who are prepared to listen.
Meanwhile Rhoda Reddock still enjoys some good Caribbean jazz styling and is a former double-second steel pan player and still loves the instrument. She continues to have an interest in the arts – living vicariously through others.