Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Heroic Acts of Ghana Women
Theodosia Okoh — Designed Ghana's flag in 1957 and  Madam Lucy Aninwaa

By Salome Donkor and Doreen Andoh
Monday, 07 March 2016 08:41

History has it that the participation of women in the fight of Ghana’s independence was very enormous and, therefore, they deserve to be celebrated.

The struggle, evident in the legendary and heroic acts of the famous Yaa Asantewaa, who against the odds marshalled forces to fight against the British colonial administration, began decades before Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President.

A study by Dr Beatrix Allah–Mensah, a Senior Social Development Specialist of the World Bank and formerly of the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana, Legon, on Women in Politics and Public Life indicated that there is ample evidence to substantiate the indispensable role women played in the prelude to independence and immediately after it.

Women’s role after 1949

Soon after the formation of the CPP in 1949, for instance, some of them, notably Akua Asabea, stood shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts such as Kofi Baako and Sacki Scheck as they toured the country and addressed large rallies to spread the message of ‘Independence Now’ for Ghana.

Hanna Cudjoe, for instance, did not only heroically rally the people behind the independent struggle, but also went a step ahead to establish day care centres.

Women’s movement

The Women’s Movement was inaugurated by Dr Nkrumah on September 10, 1960 as the only organisation under which all Ghanaian women were to be organised to help achieve government post-independent political, social, economic and educational development of Ghana.

Mention could also be made of the role of Dr Mrs Letitia Obeng, an educationist, and other women who were nurses, broadcasters, judges, and lawyers who became part and parcel of the independence struggle.

Though not very visible like their male counterparts in the frontline, the women politicians, nonetheless, provided a vanguard force, rallying their families, communities, trade and various interest groups to join the struggle for national independence.

Allah-Mensah’s writing on ‘Women and politics in Ghana, 1993-2003’ cited in a book titled ‘One Decade of the Liberal State,’ and edited by Kwame Boafo-Arthur (2007), stated that the action was largely responsible for the development of the women’s wing of the party and also for the youth organisation.

She recorded that women were efficient organisers who could bring thousands of people together for a rally at very short notice.

Indeed, it was noted that the NCGW and other groups were systematically and strategically co-opted into the CPP and given party membership cards as the only valid membership cards.

Women, the foundation of Nkrumah’s success

A paper written by Ms Joyce Rosalind Aryee, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, on the Contributions of Women to Ghana’s Independence and Democratic Governance, dated March 2007 and quoted in the study by Dr Allah-Mensah, pointed out that Kwame Nkrumah’s political success was based on the foundation set for women by the CPP.

It said in 1949, many benevolent and mutual associations, credit unions and market women’s voluntary groups sprang up and became staunch supporters of Dr Kwame Nkrumah and the CPP in general. It said those associations, though not at the forefront of the independence struggle, were involved in activities which were politically significant.

In spite of the role of women in the political struggle, there was no woman in Cabinet when Ghana attained republican status, but the contribution of women to Ghanaian politics after independence resulted in the introduction of the Representation of the People (Women Members) Bill in 1960. The bill was passed and it received the Governor-General’s assent on June 16, 1960.


Through that act, 10 women were elected unopposed as Members of Parliament (MPs) in June 1960. They were Susana Al-Hassan, Ayanori Bukari and Victoria Nyarko, all representing the Northern Region; Sophia Doku and Mary Koranteng, Eastern Region, and Regina Asamany, Volta Region.

The rest were Grace Ayensu and Christiana Wilmot, Western Region; Comfort Asamaoh, Ashanti Region, and Lucy Anim, Brong Ahafo. That made Ghana one of the first African countries to introduce a quota system for women.

In 1965, Dr Nkrumah appointed Madam Susan Al-Hassan as the Minister of Social Welfare and Community Development, while others were appointed as district commissioners.

Over the past five decades after Ghana’s independence, the representation of women in local and national level politics, as well as in other areas of decision–making indicates that there is still much more to be done to ensure an effective representation of women in politics and other equally important sectors of the nation’s development.

In the current Fourth Republic, the number of MPs increased, first to 200 and subsequently to 275. There have been six parliaments so far in the Fourth Republic.

1st Parliament: 1993—1997, 2nd Parliament: 1997—2001, 3rd Parliament: 2001—2005, 4th Parliament: 2005—2009, 5th parliament: 200 —2013.

Currently, there are 30 women in Parliament, out of the 275 elected members.

Statistics indicate that in 1998 about 588 women contested the district assembly level elections and the figure rose to 1,770 in 2010, out of which only 412 women were elected, representing 7.4 per cent as against the 5,681 men elected.

The 2004 parliamentary election saw the election of 25 women as Members of Parliament (MPs) out of the 230 parliamentarians and this reduced to 20 in 2008, with one of them passing away.

Affirmative Action Bill

Currently, the women’s movement in Ghana is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection for the passage of an Affirmative Action Bill to ensure equal participation and representation of women and men in positions of power and decision-making at all levels.

The sector Minister, Nana Oye Lithur, was quoted at a workshop in Koforidua at the formal opening of a two-day validation workshop on the draft Affirmative Action Bill as saying that the ministry was not resting on its oars while the legislative drafting process was on–going in addition to the launch of the gender-equality policy guidelines for the media and political parties.

As the minister explained, the Affirmative Action Bill is not to motivate women to compete with men, but only to promote equal opportunities to enable women to enjoy dignified lives. It behoves all of us, as individuals and both governmental and non-governmental organisations, to work to improve women’s participation in politics and decision-making, since by the 2010 Population and Housing Census, women constitute more than 50 per cent of the country’s population.

- See more at: http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/59678-heroic-acts-of-women.html#sthash.8xk6LqyR.dpuf

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