Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin

Veteran of Affirmative Marches and Beacon of Courage

Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin has boldly traversed where many men have feared to tread. She remained unwavering despite threats to her safety in a society where critical voices are silenced by an unjust system that rewards transgressors and penalizes the righteous.

BACKGROUND
Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin graduated in 1987 from the University of Ilorin with a Bachelor of Arts (with double honors in English and Education). She later pursued her M. Ed. in Guidance and Counseling in 1990 and her Ph.D. in History and Policy of Education in 1996, both from the same university.

With over 30 years of experience in human rights work in Nigeria, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin began her activism journey as the Secretary of Women in Nigeria (WIN), Kwara State, from 1988 to 1991. She later served as the Coordinator of WIN, Kwara State branch (1991–1996), Chairperson of Rethink Nigeria (1987–1992), and Chairperson of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, Kwara State branch (1990–1996).

Entering the realm of human rights activism during the increasingly authoritarian Babangida regime, she faced numerous challenges and was arrested and detained at least seventeen times in various locations. Her dedication led her to serve as the General Secretary of the Campaign for Democracy (CD) for ten years (1996–2006) and later as its President for another ten years (2006–2016).

Furthermore, she holds several other notable positions, including President of Women Arise, Chairman of the Task Force of the Citizens Forum, Spokesperson for the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations, President of the Centre for Change, and Convener of Nigerians Unite Against Terror (NUAT). Under the banner of Women Arise for Change Initiative, founded in 2003, Dr. Joe Odumakin has addressed over 4,000 cases of gender-based violence, assisting victims in seeking court redress and rehabilitation.

Between 2007 and 2023, Dr. Odumakin received over 910 awards, both locally and internationally. Notable accolades include the United States International Woman of Courage award in March 2013 and the African Woman of the Year award at the African Leadership Awards in February 2020. Her steadfast dedication to the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria led Professor Wole Soyinka to acclaim her in 2006: “I present to you a tireless fighter, whose frail bearing belies her inner strength and resilience of purpose. A veteran of affirmative marches, of crude arrests and detentions, baton charges, and tear gas, she has brought distinction to the struggle for justice and human dignity and remains an inspiration to both men and women, young and old.”

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