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Opinion: 'Vision & style in charge' by Elizabeth Ohene

By Elizabeth Ohene
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Something interesting is happening at the University of Ghana. I don’t think there was any big, strategic plan. It certainly has nothing to do with quotas or affirmative action. But the University of Ghana has suddenly turned very feminine.

I hesitated a bit about pointing it out, just in case I attracted the attention of the usual suspects with their misogynistic tendencies.

I have taken a deep breath and I am pointing out that many of the top positions at the university are currently being held by females.

Obviously, these positions have throughout the 70+ years of this university been held by men and it was not something that anyone had thought about commenting on. After all, that is the normal thing, isn’t it? The men tend to be in charge.

The interesting thing about what is happening at Legon right now is that some of these positions have been occupied by females in other parts of the country and at other times and sometimes even at Legon, but this must surely be the first time that there has been such an aggregation of females in such powerful positions at the same time at a university in this country.

And not just in this country, but probably in the whole wide world.

There has been a female Vice Chancellor at a public university in this country, Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast from 2008 to 2012.

The current Vice Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), is Professor Rita Akosua Dickson, she is female and was appointed a year ago.

Therefore, the University of Ghana appointing a female acting Vice-Chancellor, (hopefully the acting will be dropped soon) should not be big news, indeed some may say Legon is a bit late.


Last Sunday, Emelia Agyei-Mensah was sworn in as Registrar of the university; that by itself might be taken as a big deal, a female Registrar, except that Mrs Agyei-Mensah was succeeding Mrs Mercy Haizel-Ashia, who was the first female Registrar in Legon and of any university in our country.

The news would be that Mercy Haizel-Ashia as first female Registrar wasn’t a flash in the pan, her successor is another female.

There have been and there are female chancellors of universities in other parts of the world, but we got our first female chancellor of the University of Ghana three years ago when Mrs Mary Chinery-Hesse was sworn in on August 1, 2018.

There are probably some females who are chair of university councils in countries around the world, but we have just got our first one with the appointment of Her Ladyship Sophia Akuffo as chair of the University of Ghana Council.

It also just happens that the Director of Finance of the University is Bernice Agudu and she has been in this position since the beginning of the year.


Now you see what I mean by something interesting happening at Legon. The Chancellor of the University is Mary Akuoko Chinery-Hesse, female; the Council Chair is Sophia Akuffo, female; there is an acting Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, female; the Registrar is Mrs Emelia Agyei-Mensah, female; the Director of Finance is Bernice Agudu, female.

And if you think that is it, there are more. The University Council has announced the appointment of the first female director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and she is Professor Dorothy Yeboah-Manu.

I suspect that if I tried harder, I would find that there are more females holding important positions in Legon, there must be female deans and heads of department.

Oh yes, I understand the Director of Academic Affairs is Lydia Nyarko-Mensah and the College of Humanities, Finance Officer is Patricia Tay.

The elements have certainly aligned spectacularly.

None of this would have been noticeable, never mind worth commenting on if all these people had been male.

I am not sure myself exactly what it is, I want to say except that I feel extremely cheered that I have lived long enough to see the day when a major institution in our country can be seen to be in the hands of women.

Important thing

The important thing for me, note, I am not saying the interesting thing, is that none of this looks like a case of appointing a woman to make a point.

Each of these women are women of substance on their own. Each one of them has CVs that would silence the most sceptical and they have qualifications and experience that would impress the most demanding panel.

For example, the University of Ghana has a long tradition of having former chief justices or supreme court justices as council chair, I could name His Lordships Edward Akufo-Addo, Apaloo, Date-Baah and so as former Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo, as council chair, would not raise any eyebrows.

It is simply that she happens to become chair of council when there is a female chancellor, a female vice-chancellor, a female registrar and other female officials.

If someone wanted to dig deeper, you might find that Sophia Akuffo graduated as a university scholar with a scholarship to Harvard for her postgraduate.

I should probably add that all these women have one other thing in common, they are all Volta Hall alumnae.

As they say in Volta Hall, they are all ladies with vision and style and it should be interesting to see how Legon looks and feels being administered with vision and style.

Please allow me some indulgence as I wish hearty congratulations to all the ladies of vision and style. We shall be cheering you on.