Professors Elsie Le Franc and Sally Grantham-McGregor Win First UNICEF Award for Child Research in the Caribbean
Well known researchers Professors Elsie Le Franc and Sally Grantham-McGregor are joint winners of the first UNICEF Award for Excellence in Child Research in recognition of their substantial and innovative body of work in the interest of children of the Caribbean.
The prize of $500,000 was presented by UNICEF Representative Bertrand Bainvel, on October 26, 2006 on the second day of the inaugural Caribbean Child Research Conference at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. Both winners were unavoidably absent, however, Mrs. Maureen Allgrove accepted on behalf of Prof. Le France and Prof. Susan Walker on behalf of Prof. Grantham McGregor. The prize is to be spent on a research project to be conducted jointly by the two winners in Jamaica or the Caribbean.
The main criterion for the award is that the researcher's work should have had a lasting impact on the lives of children and should have been widely recognized with national and international impact on policy and practice affecting children.
Professor Emeritus, Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, University of the West Indies, Dr. Le Franc was educated at Yale and Manchester Universities. Her research interests have included Health, Equity and Human Resource Development as well as Family and Household Structures; Interpersonal Violence and Aggression; Poverty Measurement and Policy Issues.
Professor Le Franc has recently completed work on family, gender relations and reproductive health in the Caribbean and domestic violence, gender relations and household structures. Current interests include the development of an internationally comparative research project on "Family, Household Structures, Ethnicity and Health"
Having moved to Jamaica from the United Kingdom in 1965, Prof. Grantham-McGregor built an outstanding career in research on child development at the University of the West Indies between 1967-1995. She returned to the UK in 1995 to take up the position of Professor of Child Health and Nutrition at the Centre for International Child Health, Institute of Child Health, and University of London.
Professor McGregor conducted some of the seminal work demonstrating a link between nutrition and children's development. She is best known, however, for her work in early childhood stimulation. She demonstrated that the lack of stimulation of young children in Jamaica and its association with poor development.
She developed a home visiting model in early childhood interventions for disadvantaged children for Jamaica and other developing countries which became known as the Roving Caregivers Programme. She played a critical role in developing the proposal that led to the establishment of the Caribbean Child Development Centre.
Statement from Elsie Le Franc in response to the receipt of an award for contributions to Research on Child Development in the Caribbean
First of all, I wish to say how really sorry I am that I cannot be with you in person to participate in this very important conference, and to accept this award. Those of you who know me, will also know that there are very few considerations that would prevent me from being in the Caribbean, and from being involved in such an occasion as this one. I would therefore like to sincerely apologise for my absence, and wish to assure you that on this occasion, it just could not be avoided.
Secondly, I want to express my deepest gratitude to UNICEF and to all those who were involved in the granting of this award. As one goes through this life – one tries so hard to just do as one’s mother told one – that is, “Do your lessons.” Following this injunction gets easier when you try to do things that are of interest to you, and about which you have developed serious concerns. I have to admit that my deep concern for the children of the Caribbean first emerged from work that I would do for UNICEF in Jamaica in the 1980s. I would go into the inner city areas and I would see the wretchedness there. I would ask myself what has anyone done to deserve to be born into that condition. I would marvel that any decency at all (and it certainly did) emerged from those communities. In this connection, I would look at the young children wandering around the streets and I would realise that most of them would never pass through any civilising or socialising institution – not a properly functioning family, not a useful school and not a church. Many times the head of the household would be no more than about 15 years of age; children may not know which adult in the household was their parent; and certainly many of the times also, their parents did not know where their children were. I have also oftentimes despaired as I watched our failure to ensure the inculcation of appropriate sexual mores and values in our children. I have despaired as I have seen how this together with the limited opportunities faced by them have only encouraged their definitions of their own identity and achievement in terms which do not go much beyond sexual prowess and procreational capacities…… I have long felt that many of the countries in the region were sitting on a powder keg. Sadly therefore, I have to admit that I am not very surprised to see many of the social problems that we are now witnessing – and especially the increasing levels of violence in the society. HIV/AIDS and interpersonal violence are currently the biggest killers of those aged less than 19 years of age. The possible linkages between these two phenomena need to be explored. The situation of children, adolescents and young adults and the associated challenges are neither easily nor quickly analysed nor understood. I am therefore truly thankful for this recognition of the few efforts that I may have made.
I must also admit some wonderment and amazement that I could even be placed in the same conversation with Prof. Sally McGreggor. I have always admired and been informed by her work; and indeed I have always considered her to be one of the giants in this field. I can therefore only express my deepest appreciation and humility that I am allowed to share this award with her.
I would like to thank those colleagues who have supported and encouraged me over the years and on whose shoulders I have stood – from the days when I was too scared to say a word in public - to the days when I should perhaps have been a bit more circumspect in some of my public utterances! I would also like to thank the students for their tolerance – but without whom one’s endeavours could so easily have little meaning.
Finally, I have to say that the field of child development continues to be wide open and desperately in need of more work – especially by the social scientist. I now like to note that at this point in time I am really on the other side of the hill. I want therefore to encourage the younger researchers to take up the gauntlet and the challenges. Much remains to be done, and solutions desperately need to be found.
Again, let me thank you all for your very kind words, and expressions of appreciation – much of which I am genuinely sure I do not deserve. Let me also use this opportunity to wish you all the best in your future endeavours in this area.