‘I was a newborn when Bahamian women voted for the first time’: Five minutes with Brenda Dorsett, under secretary of The Bahamas’ Ministry of National Security

By on 16/01/2024 | Updated on 16/01/2024

In this sister series to our ‘Five minutes with’ interviews, we share insights from women civil and public servants as part of our Global Government Women’s Network coverage.

In this interview, Brenda Dorsett tells GGF about her department’s work to combat human trafficking, how men can advocate for female colleagues, and about the three women she’d invite to her dream dinner party.

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What drew you to a career in the civil service?

My father would have had the greatest influence on my career choice when I was very young, as I was able to observe his activities as a public servant of The Bahamas government on the island of Eleuthera. In addition to those responsibilities, he also served as a Justice of the Peace as well as a member of the Local Board of Works (prior to the establishment of local government). In all of these endeavours, it was evident that his efforts and those of other public servants with whom he worked had a positive impact on the quality of life on that island.

What have you achieved in your career that you’re most proud of?

Since joining the public service over forty years ago, I have had the opportunity to work in most government ministries of significant complexity in The Bahamas, which has enabled me to more extensively contribute to national development.

I have worked in eight ministries with fifteen ministers, one of whom was a prime minister, two of whom later became prime ministers, and four of whom were deputy prime ministers.

I am also grateful that I have been able to share the knowledge and skills gained during this journey with others.

How might the civil service be different in 25 years’ time?

The digital transformation of services is unfolding rapidly, and I would expect this trend to continue. During the past year, all of the revenue generating services offered by the Ministry of National Security’s headquarters were digitised. This project was comprised of adding fourteen services to the My Gateway digital platform, through which members of the public can complete the application process for specific licenses and permits online.  

Which female public servant – past or present – do you most admire?

The female public servant that I most admire is my first grade teacher who I met on my first day of primary school. The public primary school that I attended was subsequently renamed in her honour.

Is there a women-focused or gender-related initiative your department is working on that peers overseas could learn from?

The Bahamas has maintained a Tier 1 ranking for several years in the US State Department’s Report on Trafficking in Persons. The work of the Trafficking in Persons Unit of the Ministry of National Security, which is led by a female officer, is a gender-related project as all reported cases are women. The Unit is supported by the Trafficking in Persons Taskforce – a collaborative group of representatives of relevant government departments and law enforcement agencies, local NGOs and faith based groups. These partnerships have augmented capacity in the investigation of reports of human trafficking, the prosecution of alleged perpetrators, the care of victims, and in raising public awareness of human trafficking.

What can men in senior roles do to help advocate for female colleagues and to ensure they have influence in their teams and organisations?

I think that in circumstances where there is underrepresentation of females in the decision-making process at the higher levels of management, men in senior roles can take an active part alongside women in efforts to ensure equal opportunities for the advancement of all suitably qualified public officers, preferably by way of legislated policy.

Which public policy affecting women and girls do you think is most important at present and why?

Despite the implementation of legislation in many countries to combat violence affecting women and girls, gender-based violence remains a global concern as a possible outcome of this type of violence is the denial of a victim’s right to live. It also results in loss of productivity which is an impediment to the economic growth of a country.

Which three famous women, alive now or from any time in history, would you most like to invite to a dinner party?

I would most like to invite the late Ida B. Wells (USA), the late Sarah Parker Remond (UK) and the late Doris Johnson (The Bahamas) who were all black female advocates for women’s suffrage. The women’s suffrage movement has always been of interest to me as I was a newborn when my mother, along with other Bahamian women, voted for the first time. My mother always reminds me of that historic moment. She also frequently encourages females to exercise their right to vote whenever possible, as that right was not automatically granted to women of her era.

What was the first piece of music you bought?

In eighth grade, I auditioned and became a member of the chorus in my high school’s musical production of Oklahoma. It was an enriching experience for the students at all grade levels and the faculty that participated (including our principal who was a part of the cast). I purchased my first musical score at that time, which was by Rogers and Hammerstein in preparation for the performance; and even though many years have passed, I can still remember most of the lyrics from that musical.

Who is your heroine?

My mother. She is still alive – a centenarian who continues to impart sound advice and inspire everyone she meets.

More from the ‘Five minutes with’ series: ‘Women from diverse communities and experiences bring unique insights to the table’: Five minutes with Sonia Karim, director of Sierra Leone’s Cabinet Affairs Department

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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