Professor Joycelin Averil Massiah, GCM
Women's Activist, Guyana
Joycelin Massiah is Guyanese by birth, and a citizen of Barbados with several years of service in Jamaica. Professor Massiah was the first female Head of a Department, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados (UWI); first Caribbean female Professor, Faculty of Social Science, first female Director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research, and first Coordinator of major research about women in the region. For three decades she has been involved in every aspect of Caribbean society, particularly as it relates to the role of women and their pivotal position in the family.
Early life and education
Professor Massiah was born on 3 July 1940 in Guyana. She received her training in the fields of Economics and Sociology at the University College of the West Indies culminating in a PhD in Sociology in 1982.
After university, Massiah went on to serve the regional University in several distinguished capacities. Her professional career reached its pinnacle when in 1992 she was appointed to her present post of Regional Programme Advisor to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), located in Barbados. She came to this task eminently qualified.
During her extensive career, she was employed in various capacities with the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) including that of Director. Between 1972 to 1975, she lectured in Demography, Caribbean Studies, Social Policy and Planning, and Women and Development Studies. She also supervised MSc and PhD dissertations at the three campuses of the UWI, and graduate studies of the University of Alberta. Professor Massiah has published three books, one on population in Barbados (1974), and two on Women in the Caribbean (in 1979 and 1986). She has authored or co-authored over 60 published articles and reports, some commissioned by CARICOM and international agencies such as PAHO, UNESCO, UNICEF, and USAID.
In her illustrious career, she was the first female Head of a Department on the Cave Hill Campus of UWI; the first Caribbean female Professor in the Faculty of Social Science; the first female Director of any of the branches of the Institute of Social and Economic Research; and the first Coordinator of a major programme of research about women in the Region.
In addition to her service as a member of the Senate of the University of the West Indies, Professor Massiah has served on other regional and international committees and boards to include the Board of Directors of the International Centre for Research on Women and the Advisory Committee of the Population Council on Family Structure, Female Headship and Poverty.
Under her inspiring leadership, the UNIFEM Caribbean Office was one of the key players collaborating with the CARICOM Secretariat and UN/ECLAC in preparing Caribbean delegations for effective negotiating and lobbying during the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. Her dynamic input contributed to a successful outcome for the Caribbean and laid the foundation of effective follow-up after Beijing.
Professor Rex Neetleford, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies in assessing Professor Massiah's contribution said that her work has been dedicated to charting ways, rooted in Caribbean culture, which can serve as a road map to enable us as a people to make our way with dignity and self-esteem into the new Millennium. Professor Massiah sees Education as a Human Right. She understands the importance of our history and culture; that all work is meaningful and uplifting; and that it is only through respect for each other that we can hope to move forward.
Honours and awards
The Government of Barbados honoured the work and lifetime contributions of Professor Massiah by awarding her the Golden Cross of Merit, Barbados’s third highest award in 1998 for her contribution to tertiary education and research.
In acknowledgement of her exceptional career accomplishments, Professor Joycelin Massiah was conferred the CARICOM Triennial Award for Women in 1999.