Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin traversed courageously where men fear to thread. She has remained consistent without minding the hazards to her person in a society where critical voices are loathed by unjust system which rewards the crook and punishes the just.
Of Delta Ibo parentage, Dr. Joe was born Zaria July 4, 1966, grew up in Ilorin and got married to Mr. ‘Yinka Odumakin from Osun State. She started her schooling at St. Barnabas Pry. 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. She pursued her A’ levels at the School of Basic Studies, Kwara State Polytechnic.
She proceeded to the University of Ilorin where she got a BA.ED (English and Education in 1987. She returned to the same institution and bagged her MEd in Guidance and Counseling and her PhD (History and Policy of education) in 1996.
Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin cut her teeth in activism as the Secretary of Women in Nigeria (WIN) Kwara State from 1988-91 and the coordinator of Women in Nigeria (WIN), Kwara state Branch (1991-1996), Chairperson of 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 Hqts Ilorin, SSS HQ Maitama Abuja, Panti Police Station, Kirikiri in Lagos and Alagbon in Lagos.
But her spirit was not daunted and became the Assistant General Secretary of the Campaign for democracy in 1994 at a time the battle against the annulment of June 12 had become so fierce.
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She held forth brilliantly as the head of the organization’ s secretariat from 1995- 1996 when the then Chairman Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti (of blessed memory) and the General Secretary Comrade Odion Akhaine were clamped into jail. 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 at the historic Akure convention. She is also the Executive Director of the Institute of Human Rights and Democratic Studies, the President of Women Arise, the Chairman Task Force of the citizens Forum and the spokesperson coalition of civil society organizations.
DrJoe has over 30 years experience in human rights work in Nigeria. She has been involved in over 2,300 cases of woman’s rights violations, including extrajudicial killings of women or their husbands by the police.
She has received several awards at the national and international level. Last year alone, she received five awards. In March The United Nations (Nigeria) gave her an award as the “Hero of Democracy and Good Governance”. October 1st, 2007. She was given an award by Development Issues Initiatives Association for her contributions to national development and human rights crusade, the same October she was given an award by Human Rights Now as “The defender of the oppressed”. Also in November 2007, Assemblies of God Church Festac town, Lagos. Gave her an award as the ICON of democracy and finally in September 2007, The National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) Oyo State Chapter. Gave her an award as The Hero of Democracy.
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She also received an award in Imo State of Nigeria in November 23rd, 2008 as “The Defender of Women’s Rights” during the Aba women commemoration.In 2016,Dr Joe received 9jaMentors Honorary Award.
She has received over 500 awards at the national and international levels, including the International Women of Courage Award from the United States Department of State, presented by Michelle Obama and John Kerry at the US State Department’s Dean Acheson Auditorium in celebration of International Women’s Day, 2013.