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Hon. Melanie Griffin - In her mother's footsteps...
By Felicity Ingraham
Dec 9, 2016 - 11:41:07 AM

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Minister Griffin seen top at Government House next to her mother Telator Strachan, the Governor General, and the Prime Minister; Below left is her mother Telator Strachan with the Governor Genera; and Bottom right is daughter Melanie Griffin with her mother Telator Strachan.

Nassau, Bahamas - When looking at the history of the nation builders of The Bahamas, one mother-daughter duo stands out as the only pair to have graced the halls of Parliament.  Melanie Griffin may not have expected that she would follow so closely in her mother’s footsteps while growing up, but she did know that the strong family and personal values that her mother, Telator Strachan instilled in her, would carry her far throughout her life.  

Minister Griffin and former Senator Strachan both served in the Upper House as Senators for the government of The Bahamas.  Mrs. Griffin has gone on to serve as a member of the Cabinet and a Member of Parliament in the House of Assembly.  

The foundation for their success was laid by the family’s matriarch and Melanie’s grandmother, Deaconess Pearl L. Moxey, affectionately known to many as “Mother Moxey”.

Mother Moxey was a seamstress, straw vendor, and a missionary.  With a life deeply embedded in the church and the Baptist community, and she went on mission trips to the Family Islands and the United States of America, sharing the Gospel of Christ.  Mother Moxey was a mother to many - but raising her daughter and granddaughter into the kind of phenomenal women that would one day become the only mother-daughter team in government may be one of her greatest accomplishments.  

Former Senator Strachan is an icon in the straw market and still actually works there today from time to time.  She not only served as an ambassador of sorts to the millions of tourists who visit downtown, Nassau; she also represented her fellow straw craft vendors as president of their association for many years.  She stood up for their rights and ensured that they were respected for the meaningful part they play in the tourism industry.

Strachan represented her country overseas, including participating in the Coconut Grove Festival in Miami when the festival was in its hey day.  

“She was a part of the movement for change coming into the Majority Rule era, which led to Independence,” Griffin says about her mother.  

Former Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling appointed Strachan to the Senate in 1987.  She served as president of the Straw Vendors Association from 1968 until she retired very recently.

She gave birth to her daughter Melanie at home on John Road in Bain Town, during the days when a midwife used to come to the home to assist in the birthing process.  Strachan brought her children up with the church being an integral part of their lives.  She was also actively involved in the Progressive Liberal Party and often took Melanie and her siblings along to branch meetings and community events.  

“I had a wonderful childhood,’ says Griffin.  With strong family support, her mother was able to do her best to raise her children in the Chippingham, Charlotte Ridge area.  Mother Pearl’s influence was great on her grandchildren’s lives as well.    

Eventually, Melanie became just as active as her mother in the church as in politics.  She worked in the church for most of her life in many capacities, including as a youth director, choir director, and even in sports.  She ascribed to the values of the PLP she learned during her time spent with her mother at meetings, and ended up becoming an active member in the youth arm of the PLP that served as a precursor to the now Progressive Young Liberals.  All along, she was gaining her value system of God, family, community and country.  

In 1987, she was drawn to historic Cat Island, and visited there with her mother and a cousin while working on her family tree.  They were deep in the south of the island when they got a call that required them to make the journey up to the northern end of the island to take a momentous telephone call.  Sir Lynden informed her mother that she was chosen to serve as a Senator.  The message could not have come in a better location - on the island where their ancestors had worked and toiled with dreams that one day, their descendants would make strides just like these.  Little did Griffin know at that time, that she would be chosen to serve in the Senate as well.  She received that responsibility in 1999.  She was the only female representing the PLP in the Senate at the time, and she served along with Senators Obie Wilchcombe, Fred Mitchell, and Dr. Marcus Bethel.  

“It is important for us to acknowledge and promote women and the important role they play in national development,” she said.  “Having worked with men in politics - that foursome in the Senate at that time - we were a formidable team and worked very well together.  Even now as a part of the team, there are four women in the Cabinet, and we women bring a whole lot to the table.  We bring a different perspective from men in looking at the national issues.”

Standing on the shoulders of strong Bahamian women, Minister Griffin continues to serve in  government today.  She has represented the Yamacraw constituency in Parliament since 2002, and is currently on her second stint as Minister of Social Services and Community Development.

An advocate for child and family welfare, women, and the elderly, Minister Griffin has made a major impact on the social landscape of the Country, particularly through the enactment of four major pieces of legislation – The Residential Care Facilities Act 2004, the Child Protection Act, 2007; the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act, 2007 and the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities) Bill Act, 2014.

She is also a champion for the rights of persons with disabilities and on September 24, 2013, Mrs. Griffin led a delegation to the United Nations to sign on to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on behalf of the Government and people of The Bahamas. Legislation was tabled in this regard a year later, and in 2015, the Bahamas Government officially ratified the Convention.  She was also instrumental in the implementation of social assistance by way of an allowance for special needs children under the age of 16 years certified disabled.  

Most recently, Mrs. Griffin has been successful in modernising the Ministry: "We have been able to modernise the way that we provide social assistance to our people.  Instead of paper-intensive food coupons, we have put in place the prepaid card, which preserves the dignity of our clients.”

The new prepaid card has helped to eliminate long lines at the various social service offices at the end of every month.  This, she said, is especially important for clients such as senior citizens and those who may be ill.  They can avoid transportation issues or being affected by the weather.  Their funds are immediately reloaded onto their card at the end of every month and they can go straight to the food store.  In addition, the card allows them to buy as little or as much food as they want when they want it, as opposed to having to cash in their coupon all at one time, as before.  This, she says, allows them to better manage their food budgets and the things they need.   

The R.I.S.E. (Renewing, Inspiring, Sustaining and Empowering) program, a conditional cash transfer program, is currently being piloted by the ministry.

“These initiatives will go a long way in creating a new way of providing social assistance and breaking the cycle of poverty in families,” she said.

With all this work in national affairs, Mrs. Griffin has not forgotten the church.  As a matter of fact, she is a licensed Minister at Judaea Baptist Church where she also serves as the Chairman of the Trustee Board and member of the Usher Board and Choir.

The founder of the Eastern Community Association, Mrs. Griffin was instrumental in the formation of the ECA Youth Marching & Concert Band and the establishment of the ECA Community Festival and Christmas & Tree Lighting Service, among other community initiatives, including the Annual Yamacraw Community Basketball Tournament.  

“It takes a lot of sacrifice,” she mused about being a woman serving in national development.  

“It’s more difficult for women; even though they have to do their part, their role in the development of the home is very significant.  They must take care of the details in the home before they can say they want to help in the national arena.”

“You must have strong family support or it will be extremely difficult,” she advised, giving accolades to her husband, Mr. Leon Griffin who “has been there from day one” and to her supportive family for encouraging her on her path to success.  Raising her daughter has kept her grounded and in touch with the needs of the mothers of the Bahamas.  

“I always have a good feeling about being able to help people and work with a family or a person and see their lives turn around,” she added.  

Having received her early education at St. Joseph’s Primary School, Mrs. Griffin pursued her secondary education at St. Augustine’s College and Government High School.  She completed her tertiary education at The College of The Bahamas where she received an Associate of Arts Degree. She also obtained a Diploma in Applied Church Music from the Bahamas Baptist Institute.  Mrs. Griffin is a recipient of the 2014 40th Anniversary Flamingo Award by the College of The Bahamas for Politics and the 2014 Exceptional Global Service to Humanity Award by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority International.

“I love our country,” she mused, “We have a beautiful country and in spite of it all, we are a beautiful people.  Once we can work together and focus on building our country together, I think it will be better for us.  A lot of people mean well; many of us have the same focus, but a different means of getting there.”

“I don't think there is anywhere else in the world I would rather live than in the Bahamas.”

One of her favourite attributes of the country is its crystal clear waters, which she enjoys especially when visiting the family islands.  She enjoys singing in praise and worship to God and lives by her motto: "Making a difference for Christ".

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