Joe Odumakin: Fearless fighter and women’s rights activist par excellence
The petite nature of Josephine Obiajulu Okei-Odumakin contrasts sharply with her courageous achievements as a women’s rights activist in Nigeria. Courageous and bold, she has walked paths and confronted things that even men dread. She is the president of the rights groups Women Arise for Change Initiative and the Campaign for Democracy.
Joe Odumakin’s biography is interesting. She has lived a better part of her life as an activist. Her consistency and unwavering determination to protect the rights of the just over the years speaks volumes about her fearless and courageous heart. Even in the face of great hazards, Odumakin has continued to question Nigeria’s unjust system that seems to reward crooks and punish the just.
Joe Odumakin as she’s fondly called was born in Zaria, Kaduna state on 4 July 1966 and grew up in a Roman Catholic household. She received a bachelor’s degree in English Education in 1987, followed by a master’s in Guidance and Counseling and doctorate in History and Policy of Education from the University of Ilorin.
Inspired by Martin Luther King’s quote which said ‘our lives begin to end when we keep silent about things that matter’, Odumakin knew her life would be meaningless if she didn’t question the many things wrong with Nigerian democracy and society. That was how her journey started as an activist.
She has frequently been arrested for her activism. Once, she was batted with urine and she has been detained 17 times during the military rule of Ibrahim Babangida but this woman of courage simply refused to give up fighting for human rights and women’s rights.
Odumakin has been involved with over 2,000 cases where a woman’s rights had been disregarded. The cases included extrajudicial killings of women or their husbands by the police. Despite all the challenges she faces fighting for women’s rights, Odumakin continued to make a difference and her efforts was recognised by the International community.
In 2013, she was presented an International Women of Courage Award from the United States Department of State.The award was presented to Odumakin by Michelle Obama and John Kerry at the US State Department’s Dean Acheson Auditorium in celebration of the 2013 International Women’s Day.
Earlier when she started out as an activist, Joe vowed that she wasn’t going to get married until she met Comrade Yinka Odunmakin in prison. Then love happened and they got married afterwards.
For Odumakin, balancing the home front has not been easy, but she makes sure that her family doesn’t suffer neglect. Aside activism, she reads a lot and love watching History Channel.
For this woman of uncommon courage, she’s not slowing down any time soon and Nigeria is blessed to have such a woman at such a time as this.