Police trailblazerRosamond Nkansah

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After attending Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast, Ghana, Nkansah became a teacher. Political leader Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who later became the first president of Ghana, directed that the Gold Coast Police Force (now Ghana Police Service) start recruiting women as officers, and on September 1, 1952, Nkansah was not only the first of 12 women to be recruited as a police officer, she was put in charge of the female police squad. Even with her designation as “PW/1” (Policewoman 1), the 22-year-old was not exempt from a policy that declared the women were not allowed to marry or have children; there was no similar prohibition for male officers. A number of her squad were forced to resign for daring to live their lives, and after nearly six years on the job Nkansah, who had risen to the rank of sergeant, decided she wanted to marry and start a family, so she too resigned. “But thinking that women were not being fairly treated as their male counterparts,” said now-retired officer Jane Donkor, “she decided to do something about it before leaving.” Police administrators agreed and not only lifted the prohibition, but allowed women who had resigned to marry to return to their jobs.

Nkansah on the job c1954.

After six months on the job, Nkansah’s supervisor filed a performance evaluation on her, saying she has “performed all her duties connected with her office intelligently and efficiently,” and was “making good progress in what may be considered as an unusual role for a woman. I recommend she be confirmed in the rank of corporal.” One of the dozen eventually rose to the position of acting Inspector General of Police, the first woman to achieve that rank. By the end of 2019, the country had 9,525 women police officers — apparently the largest force of women officers in West Africa. After leaving the police force, Nkansah went back to teaching, and then worked for the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, and then wrote books. The Police Ladies Association threw a party for Nkansah when she turned 90 in December. “It is heart-warming to hear that a policewoman acted as the IGP while others are now commissioners and deputy commissioners,” she said at the event. Indeed Donkor, who attended the party as the co-founder of the Police Ladies Association, was the country’s first female Commissioner of Police. With the death of Rosamond Asiamah Nkansah in the Police Hospital in Accra on February 20, at age 91, only four of her original squad survive her.

Nkansah (seated, center) at her 90th birthday. (Photo: Ghana Police Ladies Association)

From This is True for 28 February 2021