Doing "A Man’s Work"

Ahreefa Bacchus, Journalist
October 09, 2018 8:22 am AST
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
This week, the BVI observes Fire Prevention Week 2018 under the theme, “Make Fire Safety Your Routine; Fire Safety Awareness Week 2018,” and while some may put fire safety as a focal point for this one week, for Sub-Officer Ms. Aldith Penn, her daily life for the past 21 years revolves around fire prevention.

Ms. Penn is one of the only two females employed with the Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Services, and the Territory’s very first female Sub-Officer.

However, despite her efforts and sacrifices to serve the people in this critical sector, Ms. Penn shares that she faces challenges with the perception of women’s abilities in such a position.

“They take it as a male job, so regardless, if you’re working with them, they still look at it as women shouldn’t be in the department,” she stated.

As such, she says that “To survive, you have to work harder than the men.”

The Sub-Officer has a Degree in Disaster Management, but is also currently engaged in studies in the accounting field.

The mother of two shared that she has also been preparing her daughters to respond to fires and assist others, should the need ever arise.

“We need to educate our children,” she stressed, adding, “For me, because I am a fire officer, I was on call 24/7 in Virgin Gorda, so I educated my kids, ‘in case of a fire, this is what you need to do.’ I showed them how to tie the blankets together and tie it to the windowsill to escape a burning building.”

Ms. Penn iterated, “I actually go through drills with them in case I’m not around or they’re at school, they can help someone else.”

Despite the challenge of perceptions, Ms. Penn is urging women to join the Fire Service and get the training necessary to get them on par, and even above their male counterparts.
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