Ghana is considered one of the more stable countries in West Africa. Since 1992, the country has held competitive multiparty elections that have led to peaceful transfers of power. But relatively little is written about the role of women in Ghana’s political history. Its former first lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, has written a new memoir, called, “It Takes a Woman”

You have probably heard the saying that “behind every successful man there’s a strong woman’. Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, Ghana’s former First Lady, is a perfect example of one.

She was thrust into the political limelight, when her husband Jerry John Rawlings, seized power in Ghana in successive coups, first in 1979, and then in 1981. He ruled the country until 2001. Some scholars say the secret to much of Jerry Rawlings’ success is his wife.

A politically ambitious woman in her own right, Mrs. Rawlings was elected first vice-chairperson of Ghana’s National Democratic Congress (NDC) in 2009. Two years later, she challenged the late President John Atta Mills in a bid to be the ruling party’s presidential candidate but lost. 

In 2016, she became the first woman in Ghana to run for president, in an election that dubbed her the African Hillary Clinton. Rawlings lost after garnering less than 1% of the national vote. Her supporters blamed a narrow electoral college and too few women delegates for her defeat. 

But analysts say besides Ghana’s founding father and first President, Kwame Nkrumah, perhaps no other political leader has made as much of an impact in Ghana as Mrs. Rawlings. She is known for being a fierce advocate for women’s rights. 

She’s the founder of the 31st December Women’s Movement, an organization that works to eliminate poverty among women and children. In her memoir, Mrs. Rawlings writes about championing the causes of women and under-served citizens, while her husband worked to transform Ghana into a model of African democracy.

Ghana has seen years of difficult economic recovery and transition from authoritarianism to multiparty democracy. Today, working-class people widely cite her husband, Jerry Rawlings as one of Ghana’s best presidents. And, while they remain an influential political power couple, the country remains split over the Rawlings legacy:  some point to Jerry Rawlings’ association with political violence and see him as a military dictator whose Forces Revolutionary Council executed eight senior military officers, including three former heads of state.  Others are willing to forgive the violence and human rights abuses as necessary steps to achieve lasting change and those who suffered under his rule.

In 1992, Rawlings resigned from the military, founded the National Democratic Congress, and became the first President of the Fourth Republic. He was re-elected in 1996 for a second term. He recently served as the African Union envoy to Somalia. Ghana has remained a peaceful and thriving democracy but lags behind other African countries, such as Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda, in women’s political participation.


Since 2001, four other leaders – all men — have served as presidents. They include John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor; New Patriotic Party (NPP) was President of Ghana from January 7, 2001, to January 7, 2009. President Kufuor also was Chairperson of the African Union from 2007 to 2008.

John Evans Atta Mills President of Ghana from 2009 to 2012. He is the first Ghanaian head of state to die in office.  John Mahama first served as the vice president who later took over the presidency after the death of his predecessor, Prof. John Atta Mills. John Mahama, President of Ghana, was later elected and served a full term from July 24, 2012, to January 7, 2017.  President Nana Akufo-Addo has been in been in office since January 2017.


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