Letitia Eva Takyibea Obeng was the first Ghanaian woman to get a zoology degree and the first to receive a doctorate science at a period when few women sought professions in STEM. She is referred to as “the grandmother of Ghanaian female scientists. Born on the 10th of January 1925 in Anum, Eastern Region,Leticia Obeng received the majority of her elementary education in Abetifi, Kwahu and in Kyebi.
After Leticia Obeng’s secondary school education in Achimota school, she received a government scholarship to the University of Birmingham (1948–1952), where she was the sole African female student on the Edgbaston campus, after she completed the London University International Examination to continue her study. Leticia graduated from the University of Birmingham with a Master of Science in Parasitology in 1962 and a PhD in Tropical Medicine in 1964.
Leticia Obeng the Scientist
She returned to Ghana and lectured at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology where she acted as the first female scientist. Letitia set up the National Research Institute of Aquatic Biology for research on Ghana’s huge man-made Volta Lake and its inland water system on her return as well. She was asked to attend the 1972 United Nations Human Environment Conference in Stockholm and was hired by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as the Officer in Charge of Water and Soil in the Global Environment Program in 1974. She was appointed Director of the UNEP Regional Office for Africa and UNEP’s Representative to Africa in 1980, where she collaborated with the 53 African Environment Officers to develop a Program of Action for the African Environment.
Leticia Obeng was recently featured in the Evolution of Science Art Exhibition and has a long list of honors and achievements to her name. She was a distinguished International Visitor fellow at Radcliff College and was the very first female to receive the CSIR Award for Distinguished Career and Service to Science and Technology. The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine also awarded her a PhD for her research on the Black Fly and its connection to River Blindness. In 2006, she was awarded Ghana’s highest national honor, the Order of the Star of Ghana. Leticia Obeng was also unanimously elected the first female President of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008. She was the first woman to be elected to the Fellowship of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from KNUST in 2017.
Her publications include “Man-made Lake”; “Environmental Management”; “Volta Lake Ecology” and “Environmental Problem of Africa”; “Health Hazards Of Agricultural Projects”; “Dr Ephriam Amu – A Portrait of Cultured Patriotism” and “Parasites: The Sly and Sneak Enemies Inside You”.
Leticia Obeng has accomplished a lot in Ghana’s STEM field, but when asked what her greatest achievement has been, she remains that successfully working and being awarded a PhD at the age of 36 with three children aged 8, 6, and 3 makes her feel immensely fulfilled.