Deidei Ashikisha
Deidei Ashikisha

Independence struggle - Role of some influential women

Ghana gained independence from the British in 1957.

However, the names often mentioned are mainly those of men leaving out the women.

The independence from the British was led by Dr Kwame Nkrumah, but he did not do it all alone.

Apart from the support he had from men, women also played some key critical roles in the struggle.

It is important to note that these women supported Dr Nkrumah and the other founding fathers through various means.

It is on record that in his inaugural speech in 1957, Dr Nkrumah praised two women, Dedei Ashinkinshan and Akua Shorshoorshor, for their roles in the struggle.

The CPP Women’s Wing

In recognition of the organisational abilities, skills and prior political experiences of many of these women activists, the male leadership of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) appointed some women as propaganda secretaries in May 1951, whose duty was to mobilise their fellows and the youth of the party and send the campaign message to the grass roots.

These women included Hanna Kudjoe of Tarkwa, Alice Appiah of Senchi, Leticia Quaye, Ama Nkrumah and Sophia Doku, and thus began the process of ‘making’ Nkrumah and the CPP and in effect the making of an independent Ghana.

Women groups

What was more interesting in this period was the formation of both political and non-political women’s organisations. From 1950 to 1960, there were two dominant women’s groups in the Gold Coast.

The first and more militant organisation was the CPP women’s wing/section formed almost immediately after the CPP was founded.

After independence, the leadership of this organisation formed the All-African Women’s League, which was later renamed the Ghana Women’s League (GWL) in 1960.

The other organisation, the Federation of Gold Coast Women (FGCW), was an alliance of smaller voluntary groups such as the Gold Coast Women’s Association and market women’s groups in the colony formed in 1953.

These women’s groups which spring up later in the 1950s were not so much for elite women to socialise with others of their kind, but to bring about material change in women’s living conditions.

Affirmative Action

Dr Nkrumah introduced an affirmative action during which 10 women were elected into Ghana’s parliament.

This became possible when he introduced the Representation of the People’s Amendment Bill after he realised that the country’s parliament was made up of only men.

During that time, 10 women were elected in an all-female contest, which twas held in all the 10 regions.

Also, four years after gaining independence, Ghana acknowledged women’s contribution and activism by establishing the National Council of Women in 1960.

The purpose of the council was to acknowledge the contribution and activism of women in the independence struggle.

It was meant to empower and benefit women, for example by establishing vocational training centres and day care centres.

Since then the country has also signed onto various regional and international protocols with the aim of achieving gender equality.

In 1979, the government adopted an affirmative action policy to increase women’s participation in government.

A quota was set – women were to make up 40 per cent of all state and public boards, councils, commissions and committees.

However, decades after the affirmative action guidelines, this quota is yet to be met.

Women in independence struggle:

Ama Nkrumah

She was one of the few female political activists at the time. Ama Nkrumah was with Dr Nkrumah through the independence struggle.

She served in a number of political roles pre and post-independence.

“While I was in jail and the party organisation was at its most critical period, I learned that at a rally in Kumasi, a woman party member adopted the name of Ama Nkrumah (Ama being the female equivalent of “Kwame”), got up on the platform and ended the fiery speech by getting hold of a blade and slashing her face.

Then smearing the blood over her body, she challenged the men to do likewise in order to show that no sacrifice was too great in their struggle for freedom and independence,” this is what Kwame Nkrumah wrote about her in the March 1957 issue of The Crisis – a journal of civil rights, history, politics and culture founded by W.E.B. Du Bois.

Sophia Oboshie Doku

She was one of the devoted female activists who played a great role in the independence movement.

She was also the first female parliamentarian in the first Parliament of the First Republic under President Kwame Nkrumah.

Her political career, however, did not begin with the CPP. She joined the United Gold Cast Convention (UGCC) at its formation and became one of the party’s first executive members of the Accra branch.

Like several other women, Ms Doku joined the CPP at its formation.

In 1953, she was appointed assistant welfare officer at the Department of Social Welfare and later in 1958, became the first female camp Superintendent of the Builders Brigade. 

Mabel Dove Danquah

She was the wife of one of the Big Six, J.B. Danquah. She got into politics after Kwame Nkrumah founded the CPP, in 1949, and she became a member of staff of the nationalist

Accra Evening News, joining the campaign for the end of British rule and immediate self-government for the Gold Coast.

A journalist by profession, she became the women organiser for the CPP in the 1954 general election. Dr Nkrumah appointed her editor of the Evening News in 1951.

She was subsequently put up as a CPP candidate for Ga Rural constituency, which she won.

In 1954 she became the first female member of Ghana’s legislative assembly. She is also the first woman to be elected into the African Legislative Assembly.

Rebecca Naa Dedei Aryeetey

Naa Dedei Aryeetey also known as Dedei Ashikishan was a businesswoman, political activist and a feminist.

She was popularly known for her flour business in Accra.

Naa Aryeetey was known to be the chief financier of the then CPP party and led CPP women activities at her house in Kokomlemle.

As a political activist of the CPP, she campaigned and funded Dr Nkrumah and the CPP party.

She financed Dr Nkrumah to win the Ashiedu Keteke legislative council seat which made him the first Prime Minister of Ghana.

She was the leader of the Market Mother Association. She died in 1960.

Her face is on Ghana’s 50 pesewa coin.

Agnes Oforiwa


She was one of the women who supported Dr Nkrumah in the fight for independence.

Madam Tagoe-Quarcoopome was also a market queen and a business woman at Makola and Okaishie.

She became close friends with Dr Nkrumah when he had to stay with her for a short time after his arrival from the United Kingdom to Ghana to join the UGCC as General Secretary.

As a staunch member of the CPP, she supported Dr Nkrumah by mobilising the Makola Women Association and generated massive funds for Nkrumah’s independence campaign.

Aunty Oforiwa as she was popularly called supported Dr Nkrumah in every way possible.

Sussan Alhassan

Susanna Alhassan was an author and politician. She is the first Member of Parliament in the Northern Territory.

She is also the first Ghanaian female to be appointed minister and

the first African woman to hold a cabinet portfolio.

Her fearless activism during the colonial era caused her to rise through the ranks in politics.

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