[ 2010-09-21 ]
A Silent Heritage Finds its Voice
Ghana's first female scientist looks set to top
the book charts with a critically-acclaimed
autobiography, A silent Heritage, chronicling her
“incredible and inspirational” life.
Dr. Letitia Obeng – a recipient of the Order of
the Star of Ghana, the nation's highest award -
has written 'A Silent Heritage', covering the
pleasures of a rural upbringing to a challenging
international position as a specialist on water
and environmental management.
Described as “no ordinary autobiography”, 'A
Silent Heritage' reveals how Dr. Obeng rose from
humble beginnings to become an important figure in
the Ghanaian academic community.
Elected a Fellow of Ghana’s Learned Academy in
1964, Dr. Obeng became the first female President
of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences in
Dr. Obeng says she decided to write her
autobiography in response to requests to tell
about life in Ghana in her young days.
She said: ''My biography is a deeply personal
account of the thoughts, experiences, trials,
aches, pains, triumphs and loves that I have
experienced in my life.
''Though writing my story demanded a lot of time
and energy, it was highly rewarding to recollect
the people and past events that have given my life
the shape it has had.
“Looking back, I feel blessed to have had the
opportunities I've had. Ghana made me the person I
am and in writing my biography, I also want to
celebrate my country.”
Dr. Obeng was born in 1925 in the Ghanaian town of
Anum. She received her basic education at
Given her passion for nature – and with no
university in Ghana (then known as the Gold Coast
) – she travelled to Britain, on a Government
scholarship, for further studies, at the
University of Birmingham.
Dr. Obeng studied zoology and botany from 1948 to
1952, graduating with an Honours BSc. Degree.
She returned home and, within weeks, was given the
challenge of organizing a zoology department at
the University College of Science and Technology
in Kumasi to teach and prepare students for
further studies in science, pharmacy and medicine.
A few years later at the age of 35, Dr. Obeng
tragically found herself a widow with three young
children to raise.
“Though the sudden and unexpected death of my
husband George was crushing, my children gave me
the inspiration to carry on and build a career to
She was recruited the first scientist at the
prestigious National Research Council of Ghana,
now the Council for Scientific and Industrial
Research (CSIR), before returning to England to
complete a PhD at the University of Liverpool.
Returning home in 1964, Dr. Obeng became the first
Ghanaian woman to build and direct a Research
Institute within the CSIR - the Institute of
Aquatic Biology - to be responsible for research
on the country's inland water system.
40 years ago, even before the UN Stockholm
Conference on the Human Environment, as a
specialist in freshwater sciences and related
environmental issues, Dr Obeng highlighted the
possible environmental problems that could
accompany Ghana’s forming Volta Lake.
Subsequently, Dr. Obeng and the Institute of
Aquatic Biology undertook extensive studies on the
ecological changes and environmental impact of the
Volta Lake, at the time, the largest man-made lake
in the world.
Her expertise and involvement in the Volta Lake
Research Project must have prompted an invitation
by the United Nations to the 1972 UN Conference on
the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden.
In 1974, she joined the newly established United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at its
Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. She was made Head
of the Soil and Water Task Force and the Senior
Programme Officer in charge of Water issues in the
“I've always had a passion for water,” said Dr.
Obeng. “Without water there couldn't be life, yet
this precious resource is often allowed to be
degraded and exploited in an unsustainable way. It
was important to contribute to assuring effective
management of water.”
In 1985, she was appointed the Director of the
UNEP’s Regional Office for Africa and UNEP’s
Representative to the Africa Region.
Working closely with the Environment Officers of
all the sovereign countries of the Africa Region,
the Regional Office initiated and co-ordinated the
African Sub-Regional Environment Programme to
consider the environmental issues of the Africa
On retirement from UNEP and settled back home, Dr.
Obeng served on the Boards of a number of
international organizations where she contributed
to issues relating to water, environment and
In 1997, she was, honoured with the CSIR Award for
a Distinguished Career and Service to Science and
Technology, and the following year received
Ghana's First national award for Science and
Technology (Biological Sciences).
'A Silent Heritage' recollects a rich and varied
life, and throughout its 569 pages, the author's
passion for Ghana shines through.
Dr. Obeng said: ''I have always been proud to be
African and a Ghanaian. At Birmingham University,
for the strictly official Graduation Ceremony, I
obtained permission and wore my Ghana traditional
“My autobiography has many references to Ghana's
infectious hospitality, generosity and humour and
identifies geographical, historical, traditional,
cultural and a variety of other splendours which
are unique and characterise my homeland.”
“A Silent Heritage: An Autobiography” by Letitia
E. Obeng (Goldsear) is available on Amazon UK
Source - GRi
... go Back