Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin began her career in activism as the Secretary of Women in Nigeria (WIN) Kwara State from 1981-1991, she became the Coordinator of Women in Nigeria (WIN) Kwara State Branch (1991-1996), Chairperson, Rethink Nigeria (1987-1982) Chairperson, Committee for the Defence 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 on locking up critical voices. She became one of the targets of the administration as she was arrested and detained not less than seventeen times at different locations. Despite this, her spirit was not daunted and she became the Assistant Secretary General 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 for 10 years, from 1996 to 2006, when she became President in July 2006. She is also Executive Director of the Institute of Human Rights and Democratic Studies, the President of Women Arise for Change Initiative; Chairman of the Task Force of the Citizen Forum and the Spokesperson, Coalition of Civil Society Organizations and President, Centre for Participatory Democracy.
She has received numerous awards at the national and international levels. In March 2010, the United Nations Nigeria awarded here as the “Hero of Democracy and Good Governance“. In October 2007 she was given an award by the Development Issues Initiatives Association for her contribution to national development and human rights, the same month she was awarded by Human Rights Now as “The Defender of the Oppressed.” She also received an award in Imo State of Nigeria in 2008 as The Defender of Women’s Rights during the commemoration of Aba Women Riot. In August 2008, she was authorized and commissioned to serve as an Ambassador of Good Will from Arkansas to the people of the nations beyond the borders of the United States. In September 2010, the Priceless Jewels Initiative gave her an award as the “Champion of Women Empowerment“.
Her consistency and unwavering determination for survival of democracy in Nigeria led Professor Wole Soyinka to describe her as follows: “I present to you a tireless fighter with inner strength and resilience, purpose; a veteran of affirmative marches, of crude arrests and detentions, baton charges and tear gas who has lent luster to the struggle for justice and human dignity, who remains an inspiration of men and women, old and young.”