Researcher honoured for changing lives through innovative education projects
In recognition of her longstanding commitment to education as a means of transforming the lives of youth, especially those from marginalized backgrounds, McGill University Professor Claudia Mitchell has been awarded the 2022 José Vasconcelos World Award of Education.
The award jury highlighted Dr. Mitchell’s work in tackling difficult social issues impacting girls in various countries and her success in running innovative and adaptive projects, in addition to teaching and research.
“I’m very interested in social justice issues,” says Dr. Mitchell. “So I do a lot of work around gender equity, gender-based violence and getting more girls into school, but also how do we involve boys and young men in gender equity issues.”
Her projects often involve filmmaking, primarily using cell phones to make videos. “We also do a lot of work around photovoice, photography, drawing – really looking at issues that are very difficult to put into words, but are often perhaps more powerful to try to visualize.”
Community outreach is central to Dr. Mitchell’s research. “It is very important to facilitate dialogues and work with communities.”
Much of her work takes place in Sub-Saharan Africa. “Right now we’re doing a lot of work in Sierra Leone, where there are particular critical issues around gender,” she says.
On winning the José Vasconcelos World Award of Education, Dr. Mitchell says it reinforces the value of her work. It also signals to young researchers that this kind of research, that sometimes brings about change by working with small numbers of people, is worth pursuing.
For example, she says, “there was a project in South Africa where 10 girls made cell films about forced and early marriage, and members of the community saw those cell films. The chief of the community, along with other stakeholders said, ‘we have to do something.’ And they actually went to the legislature in Pietermaritzburg, and passed a protocol about forced and early marriage in one district.
“So that kind of impact and having people see that, bringing that out as evidence of the value of this kind of work, is really important.”
Learn more about the José Vasconcelos World Award of Education