The very first time I heard about her, she was a part of the Save Nigeria Group [SNG] canvassing for free and fair elections in the Nigerian elections of 2011. The SNG organised several rallies, peaceful protests and seminars to educate and the electorate [‘spectorates’ according to Prof Pius Adesanmi] and inform the powers that be that it was not going to be business as usual.
After the hullabaloo of the elections, subsidy removal engineered operation ‘Occupy Nigeria’, and there she was again at the forefront of the protests, rallies and demonstrations. Joe Okei-Odumakin seemed tireless in her exertions and indeed looked as though she would go on as long as it took…that is until the troops invaded Lagos and the Nigerian Labour Congress consorted with the Federal Government to produce a less than satisfactory resolution. Story for another day, or better still, it is water under the bridge. Moving on to the warrior that is Dr. Josephine.
Born in Zaria on July 4, Dr. Josephine grew up in Ilorin and schooled at St. Barnabas Primary School, Ilorin where she obtained her first school leaving certificate. Her secondary education was at the Queen Elizabeth Secondary School, Ilorin, and thereafter, she undertook her A’ levels at the School of Basic Studies, Kwara State Polytechnic. Dr. Josephine earned a BA.Ed in English and Education in 1987 from the University of Ilorin. She earned her M.Ed in Guidance and Counselling and her Ph.D. (History and Policy of Education) from the same institution in 1996.
So I am young [oh yes I am] and I was but a Babe when Dr. Josephine honed her skills in human rights activism. From 1988-1991, she was the Secretary of Women in Nigeria (WIN), Kwara State branch and the Coordinator of Women in Nigeria (WIN), Kwara State branch from 1991 – 1996. Dr. Josephine also served as the Chairperson of both the now defunct Rethink Nigeria from 1987 – 1992 and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Kwara State branch from 1990 – 1996.
She was arrested and detained no fewer than seventeen times during the military administration of Babangida!!! Who knew?!
Dr. Josephine is presently the Executive Director of the Institute of Human Rights and Democratic Studies, the President of Women Arise for Change Initiative; the Chairman, Task Force of the Citizen Forum, Spokesperson, Coalition of Civil Society Organizations and President, Centre for Change in Community Development and Public Awareness(CDP). The Women Arise for Change Initiative aims to work for the women folk, breaking the culture of silence and finding expression for themselves in the social, political and economic relations in Nigeria. It also encourages women to come together to stand up against misuse and abuse by our male dominated society.
A trail of recognition and awards has followed this brave and fearless crusader for justice. Her most recent, and I daresay most prestigious is the 2013 United State Secretary of State’s International Woman of Courage Award. One of only ten women, Dr. Joe received the award from the U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama, and the Secretary of state, John Kerry at the Dean Acheson Auditorium of the US State Department at a ceremony which coincided with the International Women’s Day, March 8th.
Though not a national honouree in Nigeria, Dr. Josephine has nevertheless been inundated with accolades from organisations far and wide. In 2012, the National Union of Lagos State (NULASS) The polytechnic Ibadan gave her an award of excellence as the most outstanding activist of the year; African Mouth Piece International gave her a Role Model Award; National Association of Ondo State students, presented a merit award to her in recognition of her selfless service in activism in Nigeria; West Africa Students’ Union (WASU) in recognition of her exemplary role in leadership enrichment and humanitarian services gave her the Kwame Nkrumah Leadership Award on Humanitarian Services/Icon of Hope; National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) gave her an Appreciation Award for her contribution to workers education in Nigeria; Department of Mass Communication, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta presented her with the prestigious Diamond Award in recognition of her selfless service and immense contribution to the development of the society; BAO Consulting and young Voters Initiative Lagos Presented Dr. Joe Okei-odumakin with Excellence in Activism Award in recognition of her selfless service in Activism in Nigeria; Rotaract Club Egbeda District 9110, gave her the outstanding Humanitarian Award in recognition of her outstanding performance, exemplary leadership qualities, her commitment to grassroots development and her selfless service to the uplifting of humanity in general.
Come 2013, the Eminent International Gold Award was presented to her by First Eminent Associates for her Activism and Heroism.
Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin is a woman fulfilling her destiny; people are her passion and she will go to Kirikiri for them if she has to!
Kudos brave woman; you are well worth your awards, and then some!
Why do I have a feeling that the next time the Nigerian National Awards train rolls in, there is gonna be a carriage with Dr. Josephine’s name on it?
© 2013, Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya. All rights reserved.
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