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Women of Distinction

Professor Shepherd uses history to point the way forward

Published:Saturday | March 27, 2021 | 8:33 PMLennox Aldred/Gleaner Writer
Professor Verene Shepherd

Professor Verene A Shepherd has used her research hails and knowledge of history to fight for equality when it comes to race and gender and her contribution to developing nations, including Jamaica cannot be understated.

Shepherd hails from the community of Hopewell, in St Mary, a parish which she can thank for her primary and secondary education.

She began at Huffstead Basic School before going to Rosebank Primary and then on to St Mary High.

When she left St Mary behind, it was for the much-revered Shortwood Teacher’s College. The drive to learn was great and she would enter the University of the West Indies, armed with a teaching degree all the way back in 1972. In many ways, she has never left.

At the UWI, Shepherd would earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a Master’s Degree in Philosophy. A scholarship to The University of Cambridge came calling next and there, Shepherd would read for a PhD in History, completing it in 1988.

In 1989, after her return to Jamaica, Professor Shepherd joined the Department of History at the UWI, Mona as a Lecturer, rising to the ranks of Senior lecturer, five years later. She would go on to earn the title Professor in 2001.

In 2010, Professor Shepherd was made the Director of the Institute of Gender and Development Studies at the UWI, where she remained until 2017.

During her tenure as director, Shepherd chaired the team, which produced the the UWI’s Gender Policy, launched in 2018.

Today, Professor Shepherd is Director of The Centre for Reparation Research at The UWI. She is a prominent and distinguished professional in the field of 19th-century immigration history in the Caribbean. Professor Shepherd has done vast and pioneering research on the immigration of Asian Indians into the Caribbean and has been a driving force in exposing the voices of historically ostracised groups.

Her dedication to transforming social and gender relations has placed her in the service of many boards and committees, the most significant of which, had to do with her contribution to the international human rights and justice agenda at the United Nations.

From 2010 to 2014, Professor Shepherd was a member of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (WGEPAD), serving as the Working Group’s Chair from 2011-2014.

In June of 2015, Professor Shepherd made history by becoming the first Jamaican and CARICOM citizen to ever be elected to serve on the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in its near 50-year history.

Of course, Professor Shepherd’s work, locally and abroad has led to a decorated night table.

Her honours include the Order of Distinction, Commander Class from the Government of Jamaica (2013), the Jamaica Diaspora Initiative Distinguished Women of the Americas award (2015), the Africana Studies distinguished Award from Florida International University (2007) and the 9th Marcus Garvey (UNIA) award (2014). In 2013. Professor Shepherd was added to the Wall of Honour at the Liverpool Slavery Museum.

In 2017, Professor Shepherd received The University of the West Indies Vice Chancellor’s Award for her contribution to Public Service.