Interview Series: Jerelle A. Joseph -- By Alberta Richelieu
Jerelle A. Joseph is a PhD candidate in Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. She holds a BSc. In Chemistry and Mathematics and an MPhil in Chemistry from the University of the West Indies, Cavehill Campus. She is the founder of CariScholar- a mentoring programme designed to connect aspiring Caribbean scholars to suitable mentors from the region. She hopes to create spaces whereby young people in the Caribbean can realize their full potential.
Jerelle considers education a critical factor for social change. “Young people need to be made aware of the social stereotypes and injustices that are present in the Caribbean for social change to occur…this can happen mainly through the education system.” Ms. Joseph underscored that people would not feel a need for promoting change if they did not understand that there was a problem in the first place. “A lot of the things we brand as ‘this is how we are’ or ‘this is how it's always been’, particularly with regards to traditional gender roles and sexual orientation, needs to be redefined in the minds of the young people.”
Jerelle believes that promoting entrepreneurship falls largely on the shoulders of the power structures in our society. “While parents and education systems can play a major role in encouraging young people [in the Caribbean] to be entrepreneurs, it is futile if the structures, spaces and opportunities are not created by those in power to facilitate [it.]” She stressed that for too long Caribbean governments have promoted a culture of dependency that have made many people complacent. In addition, the bureaucracy and fees associated with setting up small businesses is a huge deterrent to young people becoming entrepreneurs. “While the education system can promote these ideas, the governing bodies need to [create systems and policies to] facilitate these ideas.”
Jerelle founded the CariScholar mentorship programme because she views mentorship as crucial in the lives of young people. Emphasizing that it is an invaluable tool to have, especially in the Caribbean, where many young people come from communities that are lacking positive influences. She went on to note that a mentor’s main role is to open one’s eye to all possibilities and to provide guidance for young people on how to get there. “Our school systems in the Caribbean have traditionally not placed a lot of emphasis on career development and it is important to expose young people to good mentors who can help [them] fill in the gaps.”
Furthermore, Jerelle contends that the role of men and boys in women’s empowerment is fundamental. She highlighted that men and boys must become educated about the gender biases and injustices that are prevalent, so they can then help to level the playing field and create equal opportunities for women and girls. “ That [new] sort of mentality will trickle down to how they treat [and] value women in the home, in the workplace, and in society in general.” From her perspective, armed with the right knowledge men and boys will support women more and assume more responsibility for roles that have been traditionally branded as the woman’s roles. Jerelle considers this an effective way of building women’s confidence and supporting their dreams as a community.