Agyeman-Rawlings, Nana Konadu 1948–
Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings 1948–
First Lady of Ghana
In a statement released by the Embassy of Ghana, First Lady Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings stated, “My desire is to see the emancipation of women at every level of development to enable them to contribute and benefit from the socio-economic and political progress of the country… Women’s vital role of promoting peace in the family, the country and the world at large must be acknowledged. And to do this, they must be empowered politically to equip them adequately for the challenges of critically identifying and assessing solutions for the betterment of society.”
This was the goal of the 31st December Women’s Movement of which Agyeman-Rawlings was president. She described it as a “broad based development oriented Non-Governmental Organisation that aspires to achieve these objectives through the effective mobilisation of women.” In addition, her movement—two million strong—has set up more than 870 pre-schools in Ghana and has worked actively to stir up interest for the accomplishment of child development and family planning.
Ghana’s First Lady has said that she would continue to work in the women’s movement even if her husband were no longer president. Her husband, Jerry Rawlings, led a military coup that seized power in 1981, although he was not established as head of state until the following year. The country successfully reverted to civilian rule in 1992 and held free elections. Calling the first lady “an instrumental part of the revolution in Ghana’s economy,” the Baltimore Afro-American reported that women were Ghana’s largest labor force, and they wanted to be a central part of the country’s redevelopment. “Before December 31, 1981, they had no power of influence in law or politics—even the laws that pertained to them.” It was a grassroots movement, with women selling their land, clothes, and jewelry to get money.
Agyeman-Rawlings was born on November 17,1948 in Cape Coast, in the central region of Ghana. Both of her parents were professionals, her father serving as a prominent statesman and her mother as an educator. Agyeman-Rawlings followed their lead, making education a primary concern in her own life. She attended one of the country’s leading high schools, Achimota Secondary School in Accra, in the 1960s. In 1975, just
Born Nana Konadu Agyeman on November 17, 1948 in Cape Coast in the central region of Ghana; daughter of J. O. T. (a statesman and entrepreneur) and Felicia (an educator) Agyeman; married Jerry John Raw-lings (president of Ghana); four children. Education: university of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, B. A., 1972; London College of Arts, diploma, 1975; Management Development and Productivity Institute, Accra, Ghana, diploma, 1979; Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, certificate, 1991.
Union Trading Company, Ghana, group manager, c. early 1970-79; Art/Designing Company, president and CEO, 1979-83; first lady of Ghana, 1982—; 31 st December Women’s Movement (a non-governmental organization), president, 1983—.
Member: World Health Organization’s Global Commission on Women’s Health; Association of Ghanaian Graphic Designers.
Addresses: Office— 31st December Women’s Movement, P.O. Box 065, Osu, Accra, Ghana, West Africa.
three years after graduating with honors from the University of Science and Technology with a bachelors’ degree in graphic design, she earned an interior design diploma from the London College of Arts. She would pursue her education into the next couple decades, acquiring a diploma in advanced personnel management from Ghana’s Management Development and Productivity Institute in 1979 and a certificate in development from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration in 1991.
When interviewed in Africa Report in January and February of 1995, Agyeman-Rawlings recalled that in the early 1980s, a few women approached her wanting to form a women’s organization but after a few meetings, little happened. She said that after asking the women what they wanted to do as an organization, “It was clear that we had to start with things that would earn money to develop their communities in the social sector. Most of the women wanted things like water.” Agyeman-Rawlings spent time listening to women who came to her with their problems. Her movement taught Ghanaian women how to generate income and save money for community projects. It encouraged them to become part of the decision making process in their villages, and explained policies of health and education. It offered an adult literacy program to teach them to read and write—the majority of women could not do either. Too early marriages among female children were discouraged and programs were offered on nutrition and immunization. In 1991, through the efforts of Agyeman-Rawlings, Ghana was the first nation to approve the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child.
Via the movement, Agyeman-Rawlings also played a crucial role in the adoption of an “Intestate Succession Law,” which is applicable to the survivors of anyone dying without a will. Traditionally, Ghanaian women had little or no rights of inheritance upon the death of their husbands. The new law provides a standard of inheritance.
Agyeman-Rawlings movement has also taught village women to become involved in the electoral process. “We literally just pounded it into them until they realized, hey, we don’t want any of these people who are living outside our areas to come and stand in our areas to be elected,” she said in Africa Report. “A lot of women are now on committees in their villages and districts, some are chairing the committees… I can only say we’ve made a lot of impact, and I can see from the self-esteem and near arrogance of the women, that now we’ve actually been able to break through this thick wall.” In 1992, 19 women were elected in parliamentary elections.
Pointing to the area of finance as one of their problems, Agyeman-Rawlings told Africa Report: “Most of the Western embassies said we were just a political group and they didn’t take time to listen. It took a lot of time just getting people to understand… The more women who enter politics, the better the world will be, because we don’t think of wars and who is going to manufacture arms and who is going to kill the next person. We want to form linkages, network, and make the world a better place to live in.”
During 1995 Ghana’s first lady traveled with her husband to cities, including New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Houston, Detroit, Lincoln, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles, trying to encourage investment and trade with Ghana. Her husband was the first Ghanaian president to go on a nationwide tour in the United States.
The first lady of Ghana was in the United States for five weeks taking part in a fellows program in philanthropy and non-profit organizations at the Institute for Policy Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where she received a certificate after finishing the course of study, which included fundraising techniques, tax policy, and a course on community organization. In 1995 both she and her husband received honorary doctorate degrees at Lincoln University in Lincoln, Pennsylvania.
Noting Agyeman-Rawlings’s “charm” and “substance,” the New York Amsterdam News reported that she was praised by Ghana’s permanent representative to the United Nations, George Lamptey, who said,“For the past 12 years she has stood by her husband in the struggle to restore Ghana. She has led a group of active women to help empower Ghanaian women, freeing them from being hewers of wood and drawers of water to be[ing] actors in the political arena.”
Ghana’s first lady is a member of the Ashanti tribe. She and her husband have four children, three girls and a boy. When not busy with her family or work, Agyeman-Rawlings enjoys swimming, reading, dancing, camping, and collecting dolls from around the world. She also devotes time and money to such charitable causes as the National Radiopathy Project, Friends of the National Zoo, and the Ghana Girl Guides Association to name a few.
Africa Report, January-February 1995, pp. 52-54. Baltimore A fro-American, October 29, 1994, p. Bl. Defense & Foreign Affairs’ Strategic Policy, July/ August 1995, p. 24.
Jet, December 12, 1994, p. 26; November 20, 1995, p. 23; December 11, 1995, pp. 5-8, 10, 12, 14.
Los Angeles Sentinel, October 26-November 1,1995, p. Al; November 9, 1995, p. B3.
New York Amsterdam News, December 3, 1994, p. 2; December 17, 1994, p. 1.
Additional information obtained for this profile was obtained from the Embassy of Ghana in Washington, D.C. and from materials provided by K. Ofosu-Adark-wa, director of the 31st December Women’s Movement.
—Alison Carb Sussman
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