African-Made and African-Inspired

Independence Women

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Happy Independence Day Ghana!! (It’s still March 6th in NYC anyway). Congrats on 62 years in freedom. Here’s to hoping our relative youth as a cohesive country doesn’t betray our collective wisdom. I just wanted to post today to give a shout out to all the enterprising and fearless women who helped to grow the country to what it is today.

History is a growing thing. You think it is rooted in place, thus the branches of its many narratives seem like they are coming from one fixed point. But there are so many vantage points from which to view this growing thing: are you looking at the canonized root or at its wind-swept branches?

The Accra Makola Women’s Association and its various leaders in the mid-1950’s through to the revolution in 1979 hands down had a role in the successes and downturns of the fledgling country. But they also had an economic role in the campaigns for independence from Britain in 1957 and more directly for Nkrumah’s presidential campaign 3 years later. (Check out that sweet sweet campaign swag I found in my mom’s cloth closet/archive). Mythicized as both Market Queens and vilified as Calabullys (during economic turbulence) Ghana’s market women still hold a special place in the socio-economic landscape, but sometimes are forgotten as historical footnotes in the runup to independence.

I come from such women and say so with great pride. Auntie at the bottom right of the photo (literally she did so much for so many that that’s what people called her, and not just in that deferential respect way that everyone is an “Aunty”) is my maternal great-grandmother. She was among the first to have freezers to sell frozen perishable foods in Accra. And Sisi (like sister) my maternal grandmother and is Auntie’s only daughter and continued that entrepreneurial spirit. Pictured at the top left, Sisi owned a party rental company and chop bar that still exist today, but early on together with her mother sold cloth, batik hair accessories and clothing at a stall in Makola (which my mom, her five siblings and other cousins helped to run). In terms of fearlessness, I always think about how Sisi sent her 6 elementary-aged daughters to the top boarding schools all over the country in the newness that was this independent nation; assured that they would be getting stellar educations and thus pushing the nation forward.

There are countless Ghanaians who owe their good fortunes and freedom to enterprising women such as these. So this Womxn’s History Month I wanted to give thanks to the women who shaped me even if from afar or through family lore. Thank you for the freedoms and independence you helped to plant and grow. Oyi wala doŋ! (Thank you! in Ga) 

~Ohemaa Serwaa