Column: Women and the movement for African unity & socialism


women Jocelyn-EricssonWomen’s struggles like those in South Africa took place in various forms in many African states from the 1950s through the early 1990s, when the last vestige of white-minority rule were eliminated in southern Africa. A major effort took place in 1960 when the All-African Women’s Conference (AAWC) was formed in Accra, Ghana.

Ghana in 1960 was considered the fountainhead of national independence and Pan-Africanism. Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), relied heavily on women in the urban and rural areas during the struggle for independence and the post-colonial period.

C.L.R. James in his book “Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution” noted that “in the struggle for independence, one market woman … was worth any dozen Achimota [college] graduates….”

A writer on the CPP-ruled era in Ghana history wrote of women inside the party: “Together with the workers, young men educated in primary schools and the unemployed, women became some of Nkrumah’s ablest, most devoted and most fearless supporters.” (Kwame Arhin, “The Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah).

The Women’s Section of the CPP was formed simultaneously with the party itself. The CPP provided opportunities for the wider involvement of women in politics inside the then Gold Coast (later known as Ghana). In 1951, the CPP selected Leticia Quake, Hanna Cudjoe, Ama Nkrumah and Madam Sohia Doku as propaganda secretaries who traveled around the country conducting political education meetings and recruiting people into the party.

By the time of independence in 1957, women such as Mabel Dove, Ruth Botsio, Ama Nkrumah, Ramatu Baba, Sophia Doku and Dr. Evelyn Amarteifio were playing leading roles as organisers, politicians and journalists. In 1960 they consolidated the various women’s mass organisations into the National Council of Ghana Women (NCGW).

After Ghana became a republic in July 1960, the Conference of Women of Africa and of African Descent was convened in Accra, the capital. Nkrumah addressed the gathering, saying, “Who would have thought that in the year of 1960, it would be possible to even hold a conference of all Ghanaian women, much less of women of all Africa and women of African descent?” (Evening News, Ghana, July 19, 1960)

Nkrumah then asked: “What part can the women of Africa and the women of African descent play in the struggle for African emancipation? You must ask these questions not by word of mouth but by action — by positive action, which is the only language understood by the detractors of African freedom.”

Shirley Graham Du Bois, the spouse of W.E.B. Du Bois and an accomplished writer, organiser and committed socialist in her own right, was in Ghana at the time of the founding of the First Republic and the inauguration of the NCGW and the AAWC. She stated in an address before the Women Association of the Socialist Students Organizations in Ghana that “the advancement of Ghanaian women in recent years has been amazing and now with ten women Parliamentarians in Republican Ghana, this country had achieved what took Europe centuries to accomplish.” (Evening News, July 14, 1960)

In supporting the then movement toward socialism in Ghana, Du Bois recounted her travels to the People’s Republic of China and the achievements of women since the revolution of 1949. She claimed in her address that “the women of Socialist China were advanced in all spheres of useful activity and enjoyed equal rights with men politically, economically, culturally, socially and domestically.”

Women went on to play pioneering roles in other African liberation struggles in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Algeria, Tanzania, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone as well as many other states. At the present time, the African Union has declared 2010 the beginning of the “Decade of Women (2010-2020)” on the continent. At the recent annual summit of the African Union, the overall theme of the gathering was initially focused on the status of maternal health and children. Under pressure from his U.S. imperialist backers, Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, tried to redirect the emphasis of the summit to carrying out Washington’s foreign policy objectives in Africa.

The social dynamics of the world economic crisis have impacted Africa and forced an estimated 50 million people into poverty. The continuing influence of capitalist economic policies on Africa is a direct result of the subordinate integration of the continent’s productive forces to the imperatives of the multi-national corporations and financial institutions.

To fully challenge gender inequality and the impoverishment of women and children in Africa, the struggle must be directed against Western domination and capitalist relations of production. This struggle in Africa can be supported by anti-imperialist forces in the industrialised states when they demand that their own imperialist governments honour the right of self-determination and sovereignty of the oppressed, post-colonial nations.


Source: Ghana/ & Society with Thelma Asantewaa

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