(International Woman of Courage)
Dr. Josephine “Joe” Obiajulu Okei-Odumakin is a women’s rights activist. She is the president of the rights groups “Women Arise for Change Initiative” and the” Campaign for Democracy”.
Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin traversed courageously where men fear to tread. She remained consistent without minding the hazards to her person in a society where critical voices are loathed by an unjust system that rewards the crook and punishes the just.
Dr. Joe was born in Zaria on July 4, 1966. She grew up in Ilorin and started her schooling at St. Barnabas Primary School, Ilorin where she obtained the first school leaving certificate. She thereafter moved to Queen Elizabeth Secondary School, Ilorin where she passed her West Africa School Certificate. Furthermore, she pursued her A’ levels at the School of Basic Studies, Kwara State Polytechnic.
She later proceeded to the University of Ilorin where she got a BA.ED English and Education in 1987. She returned to the same school and bagged her M. Ed in Guidance and counseling and her Ph.D. (History and Policy of Education) in 1996.
Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin has over 25years of experience in human rights work in Nigeria. She cut her teeth in activism as the Secretary of Women in Nigeria (WIN), Kwara State from 1988 to 1991 and the Coordinator of Women in Nigeria (WIN), Kwara State branch 1991 – 1996; Chairperson, Rethink Nigeria (1987 – 1992) and Chairperson, Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, Kwara State branch (1990 – 1996). Her foray into human rights activism was at a period when the Babangida dictatorship was baring its fangs and locking up critical voices. She became one of the targets of the administration as she was arrested and detained for not less than seventeen times at different locations: Division B Police Station Ilorin; Police Headquarters Ilorin; SSS Headquarters Ilorin; SSS HQ Maitama Abuja; Panti Police Station Lagos; Kirikiri Prisons in Lagos; and Alagbon Close in Lagos.
But her spirit was not daunted and became the Assistant General Secretary of CD in 1994 at a time the battle against the annulment of June 12 had become so fierce
She was the General Secretary of the body from March 1996 – July 29, 2006 (10 years) when she became the President on July 29, 2006. She is also the Executive Director of the Institute of Human Rights and Democratic Studies, the President of Women Arise for Change Initiative; 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). She has received several awards at the national and international levels, too numerous to mention.
In March 2007, the United Nations of Youth Nigeria gave her an award as the “Hero of Democracy and Good Governance”.
In October 2007, she was given an award by Development Issues Initiatives Association (DINA) for her contribution to national development and human rights, the same October she was given an award by Human Rights Now as “The Defender women”
In November 2007, Assemblies of God Church, Festac Town, Lagos gave her an award as the “Icon of Democracy” In September 2007, the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) Oyo State Chapter gave her an award as “The Hero of Democracy”.
In 2013, Odumakin was presented with an International Women of Courage Award from the United States Department of State. The award was made by Michelle Obama and John Kerry at the US State Department’s Dean Acheson Auditorium in celebration of International Women’s Day.
She is married to another vocal activist, late Spokesman of Afenifere, Comrade Yinka Odumakin who died on Saturday, April 3, 2021.
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