The various roles women have played in the development of the Ghanaian society should not be underestimated. In pre-colonial times, women were the transmitters of language, history, oral culture, music, dance, habits and artisanal knowledge. They were the teachers and were responsible for enculturation of traditional values and knowledge in children. In contemporary Ghana, women are still involved in educating the future generation. In the informal sectors, such as dress making, basket weaving, bead making, fisheries and many other economic activities, there is knowledge transfer and women have taken full control. There is a significant proportion of women teachers, particularly in the early childhood and primary levels, in Ghana’s educational system. We all remember those lovely nursery and kindergarten madams who taught us how to use the pencils and recite the alphabets.
My own mother, Akosua Frimpomaa, played an exceptional role in my educational journey. There are many stories like that: women actively involved in their children’s education. In our senior high schools, too, women have worked and continue to work actively in the transition to higher education. Some notable examples are Rosina Acheampong of Wesley Girls High School, Joyce Asibey of Aburi Girls, Juliana Ben- Eghan of St Thomas Aquinas, and Judith Sawyer of Ghana International School. Many more notable woman academics reside across the length and breadth of this country, whether in Salaga, Nandom, Dambai, Kikam, Tafo, or Pokuase. The list is endless. Kudos and warm felicitations to all women educators out there involved in developing the human resource of this country.
Who comes to mind when you think of a physicist or sociologist? How many of these are women? In this piece I highlight some Ghanaian women in our universities who have made great contributions to post-secondary education in Ghana, both in the sciences and humanities. In the last decade, the representation of women as faculty and administrators has improved greatly. For instance, the University of Ghana has its first female registrar in the person of Mercy Haizel Ashia. Naana Opoku Agyemang, a Professor of English at the University of Cape Coast, became Ghana’s first female vice -chancellor and currently heads the Ministry of Education, where her efforts have contributed to about 90% of Ghanaian children being in school. Esi Awuah, a Professor of Water Resources and Sanitation Sciences, is the current vice chancellor of the University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani. However, we do not have equal representation of women at all levels in our universities, whether public or private. University faculty and administration is still male dominated. More importantly, the significant strides that women have made, and their impressive accomplishments, can easily go unrecognized as Ghanaian society still struggles to reconcile greatness with womanhood.
Professor Abena Dolphyne (Linguistics)
In the mid 1960’s, she was appointed lecturer at the University of Ghana in the newly established Linguistics Department. She rose through the ranks, eventually becoming pro-vice chancellor and Ghana’s first female professor. She was very much involved in de-colonizing the university with her research focused on Akan (Twi and Fante) languages and supporting her students to further their education. Today, the linguistics department has a full-fledged faculty specializing in diverse Ghanaian languages. She was also an advocate for more women faculty and administrators and, as former head of the Ghana National Council of Women and Development, she influenced national policy on women. Among her numerous contributions to the literature is the book “The Emancipation of Women”.
Professor Ewurama Addy (Biochemistry)
She was a plant biochemist whose research focused on using applied sciences to investigate the basis for the therapeutic actions of local medicinal plants, to corroborate the herbalists’ claim of efficacy. This was the bulk of her research aside training young scientists at the University of Ghana. She was the quiz mistress for the national science and maths quiz, a program which made science attractive to young people, particularly women. Thanks to her, before I majored in general science in high school, I was familiar with the term ‘mole concept’. With such a solid foundation laid by Professor Addy, many more women have taken up careers at the university level.
Professor Isabella Quakyi (Immunology and Public Health)
She was the founding Dean of the School of Public Health. Her research focused on malaria Immunoparasitology and cellular and molecular immunology has included cloning of Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein and subsequent peptide vaccine development which led to testing of the first human malaria vaccine.
Professor Frances Owusu Daaku (Pharmacy)
Currently the president of Christian Service University College, she researches social pharmacy and was the director for PPAG (Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana). Her research areas includes the role of pharmacists in mental health care provision, the pharmacy workforce, gender issues, and enhancing the social pharmacy curriculum. Notable mentions in the field of health are also deserved by Ivy Ekem, a haematologist (Science of blood), Jennifer Welbeck, a childhood oncologist (Cancer), and Afua Hesse, a paediatric surgeon. They are all Professors at the University of Ghana Medical School, training doctors for this country. Dr Angela Amedo, an optometrist and faculty member at KNUST is also worthy of mention. Her research is on optometry education and development in Ghana. She has pioneered studies in the area of eye care research in Ghana.
Professor Yaa Ntiamoah Baidu (Zoology)
She is the founder of two research foundations: Ghana Wildlife Society and the Center for African Wetlands, where she mentors a team of scientists involved in natural resources management. She played an active role in the formulation of policies to protect wetlands in Ghana, all the while mentoring students in scientific research, communication and writing. Her proposals have yielded millions of dollars which has contributed to graduate and research activities at the University of Ghana, such as the graduate commons, writing centre, graduate workshops and re-structuring of PhD programmes at the University of Ghana.
Professor Nana Araba Apt (sociology and social work)
She is a Professor of Human Development issues in Ghana. She taught at the University of Ghana, Legon, and headed two Departments: Sociology and Social Work. She also taught African Philosophy and Leadership and was Dean of Academic Affairs from 2004 to 2013 at Ashesi University. She was responsible for setting up the Centre for Social Policy Studies (CSPS) at the University of Ghana. Professor Apt has published widely on social development issues in Africa. Her research and publication focuses on gerontology, family relations, child development and women’s education.
Gender, women’s empowerment and discourse continue to be an important subject for women academics. The likes of Professor Mansah Prah of the University of Cape Coast, an engaged social scientist and feminist, Dr Akua Biritwum of the Centre for Development Studies at the University of Cape Coast, Dr Akosua Darkwah of the Legon Center for Gender Studies and Advocacy, and Dr Nana Akua Anyidoho of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Ghana are academics whose research has brought to light pressing issues about women in post-colonial Ghana.
Professor Aba Bentil Andam (Physics)
A former Head the Department of Physics and Dean of Science at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, she pioneered studies towards determining how much radiation from radon Ghana’s citizen are exposed to. She is Ghana’s first female professor of Physics. She is an internationally acclaimed physicist and chaired the West African Region of Women in Science and Technology by UNESCO. She played an active role in science clinics for girls and projects aimed at reducing poverty by helping communities manage their natural resources with a focus on water and energy. Today, more women are still actively involved in the physical sciences: Dr Nana Ama Browne Klutse currently manages the Remote Sensing, GIS and Climate Center at Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute.
Professor Akua Kuenyehia (Law)
She was Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghana. During her time at the University of Ghana, she taught criminal law, gender and the law, international human rights law and public international law. She co-ordinated a research project entitled ‘Women and Law in Anglophone West Africa’ which covered Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. She has several publications and books. Notable among them is “Women & Law in West Africa. Situational Analysis of Some Key Issues Affecting Women”.
Professor Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu (Law and International Relations)
As the Director of Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD), with a distinguished career spanning over three decades and still counting, Professor Mensa-Bonsu has served in a number of high-level international capacities. A highpoint in these positions was her appointment as the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Rule of Law in Liberia from 2007-2011. Currently, she teaches Criminal Law, Jurisprudence and Conflict Resolution at the University of Ghana.
Many more not mentioned here have contributed significantly to higher education in Ghana. I admit the above list is extremely short. More grease to the elbows of women in Ghana, Africa and the world, indeed women hold half the sky.