late MRS OBIAGELI THEODORA NWANKWO
Founding Executive Director
1.1 EARLY LIFE
Born in Kano on September 22, 1956, Princess Obiageli Theodora Nwankwo, Chief Magistrate (Rtd), Gender and Development Expert, began her journey through life. Oby, as she was fondly called, was the fourth of eight children and first daughter (Ada) to His Royal Highness, the Late Obi Alfred C. Ndigwe and Mrs. Theodora Uzoamaka Ndigwe. His Royal Highness, the Late Obi Alfred C. Ndigwe, was Eze-Uzu 1, the Traditional Ruler of Awka and Mrs. Theodora Uzoamaka Ndigwe was a school teacher.
Oby started her long and accomplished academic career at Queen’s primary school, Kano and then began her secondary education at St. John of God Secondary School, Awka where she distinguished herself. At a very young age, she showed her determination to succeed in life and make a difference in the world. Despite being significantly younger than her peers, Oby was very boisterous in secondary school. She was often described as “beautiful, petite, lovable, and disciplined” by her peers. Not only was she known as an intelligent, devoted and confident student, she was an excellent debater, poet, dancer, actress and athlete. She popularly starred as “Ima” in a stage drama named “I Must Marry Ima”, which made her well-known in most secondary schools in Enugu. She was also the top choice to represent St. John of God Secondary School, Awka at a wide-range of competitions throughout Nigeria.
Oby was industrious, enterprising, and innovative as a secondary school student. It is often said that she must have drawn a wealth of inspiration from her late dad who remarkably led the Committee that ushered in significant development in post-war Awka. She had genuine and energetic passion for adding value to the lives of others, and was an inspiration to her classmates and teachers.
Oby started her university education at University of Calabar where she studied French and English language for a year. She transferred to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu campus, where she obtained her LL. B (Bachelor of Laws) with Honors in 1979 and her LL.M (Master of Laws) Degree in 1992. She obtained her B.L (Barrister-at-Law) Certificate from the Nigerian Law School and Nigerian Council of Legal Education Lagos in 1980. She is also a graduate of the Women’s Global Leadership Institute, Rutgers University, New Jersey (1999), the Academy on Human Rights & Humanitarian Law, Washington College of Law, American University, U.S.A. (2003) and OMCT Geneva where she received training on “Using International Human Rights Instruments in the Enforcement of Human Rights” by OMCT Geneva 2002.
1.3 FAMILY LIFE
On December 1, 1979, she married the love of her life, Engr. Victor Uzoma Nwankwo (now late). Victor and Oby’s love story is as intriguing as a Disney blockbuster. Oby met Victor while studying law at the University of Nigeria. They immediately fell in love. However, Oby’s father, His Royal Highness, the Late Obi Alfred C. Ndigwe, a knight in the Catholic church, opposed the union because Victor was an Anglican. Oby, as tenacious as she was in character, stood her grounds and insisted that if she was not permitted to marry Victor, she will not marry anyone else. When asked what she admired most about Victor, she stated that he was very responsible, caring, affectionate and down-to-earth. The love and dedication between Victor and Oby was so admirably steadfast, that Oby’s father eventually gave his blessing. In fact, Oby’s dad grew so strongly fond of Victor, he gifted him a chieftaincy title, Ugwumba I of Awka in 1996.
Victor and Oby were happily married for 23 years until his untimely death in 2002. They had seven children – Mr. Uzoma Nwankwo Jr. BA, MBA PMP CISSP CEH, Dr. Obiageli Otti, Dr. Ogomegbunam Nwachukwu, Mrs. Raluchukwu Obioha, Esquire, LLM, Ms. Chinazo Nwankwo BSC, Ms. Chidera Nwankwo BSC, and Mr. Kennedy Okereke.
Oby Nwankwo was not only a daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, friend and great mentor; she was also a lawyer of over 30 years with post-call experience in litigation, judicial duties and development work. During the course of her career, she made her mark in various countries, including Nigeria, Liberia, Kenya, Lesotho, South Sudan, and Switzerland.
She served as a Chief Magistrate in the Anambra State Judiciary for 23 years. Since her voluntary retirement from the judiciary in 2004, she was in the forefront of the campaign for respect for women’s rights, gender equality and good governance. She was a gender expert/advocate, a human rights activist, an election monitor, a community mobiliser, an independent development consultant and a trainer/Facilitator.
Oby Nwankwo was the founder and Executive Director of the Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC), an NGO with offices in Abuja, Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi states. Oby led CIRDDOC to work extensively in various states of Nigeria: Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Abia, Bayelsa, Kano, Kaduna, Borno, Plateau, Lagos and Abuja; and has trained Community Information Officers, Civic Educators and paralegals who provide human rights and civic education, as well as, legal services in most of these states.
She represented Africa on the screening Committee of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (ICC); she was also a member of the ICC Gender Justice Team and Advisory Board member of Global Fund for Women among other agencies.
She served as Chairperson of the Civil Society Coordinating Committee on Election Reform (CSCC), an umbrella organization for all civil society organizations engaging the constitutional and electoral reform processes in Nigeria. She was the pioneer Coordinator of National Coalition on Affirmative Action (NCAA), a network of Civil Society Organization committed to the adoption of affirmative action as an effective strategy for increasing the number of women in governance. She was a member of the Monitoring and Evaluation Network of Nigeria (MENN) and the Nigerian Bar Association. Oby Nwankwo presented numerous speeches at National and International fora and published several papers. She had extensive experience in gender based violence, gender analysis, gender mainstreaming, gender budgeting, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation.
On the platform of CIRDDOC, she represented Africa in the Steering Committee of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (ICC), a member of the ICC Gender Justice Team and Advisory Board member of Global Fund for Women among others. She led the team that prepared the Women’s memorandum to the Uwais Committee on Electoral Reform and the Senate Committee on Constitutional Reform.
Oby Nwankwo also led in the campaign for the domestication of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa by the National and State Assemblies and the passage of the Child’s Rights Law in the States. She was a member of the National Committee of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Stakeholders’ Forum.
In January 2013, Oby Nwankwo was elected as Nigeria’s representative on the UN CEDAW Expert Committee for a 4-year term. She was re-elected for another 4-year term in 2016, where she served diligently till her demise. The committee monitors compliance by the 189 State parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women with their legal obligations under the Convention. She was elected Vice-Chair of the Committee in February 2017. Oby was also Vice-Chair of the Committee’s Working Group on Communications under the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which pre-screens individual complaints received by the Committee from women alleging to be victims of violations of their rights under the Convention.
During the examination of the progress reports submitted to the convention by the States parties Oby Nwankwo focused, among others, on women’s and girls’ right to health, including their access to sexual and reproductive health services. Oby Nwankwo was a brilliant expert, a distinguished lawyer and highly respected member of the Committee and made important contributions to its work. Her most recent contribution was conducting a confidential inquiry visit to the territory of one State party to the Convention to ascertain the existence of systematic and grave violations of rights under the Convention in that State party.
2012 to Date: Expert, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Geneva, Switzerland.
1996 to Date: Executive Director, Civil Resource Development &Documentation Centre
2010 – Date: Member, West African Women’s Election Observation Group (WAWEO)
2009 – Date: South East Coordinator Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC)
2009 – Date: Member, Nigeria Gender Budget Network
2007 – Date: Member, International Steering Committee, Coalition on the International
Criminal Court (CICC), New York.
2007 – 2009: Member, Coordinating Committee, Electoral Reform Network (ERN)
2007 – 2010: Chairperson, Civil Society Coordinating Committee on Electoral Reform (CSCC).
2006 – Date: Member, Advisory Board of Global Fund for Women San Francisco
2005 – date: Deputy State Coordinator, Nigerian Movement for Children (NMC)
2005 – 2007: Member, National Committee on the Review of the Administration of Justice
2005 – 2007: Member, National Committee on the Review of Discriminatory Laws against
2004 – Date: Member, Board of Trustees Women Law and Development International
(WiLDI) Wash. DC.
2003 – Date: Member, Board of Trustees Nigerian Book Foundation (NBF)
Member, National Child’s Rights Implementation Committee (NCRIC)
Member, Coordinating Committee, Legislative Advocacy Coalition on
Violence against Women (LACVAW).
2003 – Date: Founding Coordinator, National Coalition on Affirmative Action (NCAA)
2000 – Date: Member, National Technical Committee on CEDAW
1995 – 2004: Administrative Chief Magistrate (Nigeria)
1991 – 2004: Chief Magistrate, Judiciary (Nigeria)
1988 – 1993: Chairperson; International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Anambra, Nigeria.
1986-1988: Secretary; International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA)
1985 -1991: Senior Magistrate, Judiciary (Nigeria)
1982 -1985: Magistrate, Judiciary (Nigeria)
1981 -1982: Private Legal Practice, (Litigation) Ikejiani and Associates Law Firm.
1980 -1981: Ministry of Justice Law Reporting Division Enugu State; Nigeria
PUBLISHED PAPERS – Selected
– “Using CEDAW as a tool for mobilisation of Women’s Human Rights” presented at the Expo 2000, Baltimore, MD, USA.
– “Current Issues on the Domestication of CEDAW in Nigeria” – Published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2005.
– “Achieving Gender Balance in the Context of International Frameworks/Commitments: Overview of Progress, Achievements, Gaps, Strategies, & Challenges” – Presented at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s workshop on Moving towards Gender Equality: Balancing Political Participation in Nigeria, 2005.
– “Culture and Tradition and Women’s Human Rights in Africa” presented at the N.G.O Forum of the World conference on Human Rights in Vienna Austria.
– “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” presented at a seminar organised by the British
– Council to mark the International Women’s Day.
– “Inheritance Laws of Women in Africa” presented at The Expo 2000 an international Conference organised by the Feminist Majority Foundation USA at the Convention Centre, Baltimore MD.
– “Legal Constraints in Population, Reproductive Health and Rights in Nigeria” presented at a Macarthur Foundation Strategy Workshop in Nigeria.
– “The Evolution of Gender Crimes in the International Criminal Court (ICC)” a paper
published in the Africa Legal Aid Journal, Ghana 2003.
– “Ensuring Justice to Women in the ICC: A Call to Action”: Article published in the ICC
Monitor; Journal of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court; Issue No. 33.
– “The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: A simplified and Abridged Version”
Published by the Nigeria Coalition on the ICC– 2006.
– “Effectiveness of Legislation Enacted to Address Violence against Women in Nigeria” –
Presentation at the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women Experts’ Meeting on Good Practices in Legislation against Violence against Women, Vienna, May 2008.
– “Promoting an End to Impunity for Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity by CSOs in Africa presented at the Consultative Conference on International Criminal Justice” Organized jointly by the Hauser Centre of the Harvard University, the United Nations and Macarthur Foundation; Sept. 2009
– “Reviewing the 50+ Years of Women’s Participation in Politics in Nigeria” WACSERIES Vol. 2 Num 1.2010.
PUBLICATIONS – Selected
• CEDAW as a Tool for Women’s Rights Activism – FDP Books (2001).
• Inheritance Rights of Women in Africa – FDP Books (2000).
• Child Marriage as Child Abuse – FDP Books (2001).
• Women’s Human Rights Advocacy: Step by Step – FDP Books (2002).
• Reproductive Rights of Women in Nigeria – FDP Books (2002).
• Violence against Women – A Violation of Women’s Rights – FDP books (2002).
• Marriage, Divorce and Succession under Nigerian Law – FDP Books (2002).
• Current Themes in the Domestication of Human Rights Norms (Eds.) Nweze C.C. & Nwankwo O – FDP Books (2003).
• Affirmative Action Strategies: Perspectives from around the Globe (Eds.) Egwu Sam & Nwankwo Oby – FDP Books (2003).
• Convention on the Rights of the Child – With explanatory Notes – FDP Books (2003).
• Human Rights of Women: A Compilation of Treaties and Conventions – Peculiar Instincts (2005).
• Gender Inequality and the Political Rights (Ed.) – FDP Books (2005).
• Gender Inequality, Reproductive Rights and HIV/AIDS: A Case for a Coordinated Judicial Approach (Ed.) Nwankwo O. – FDP Books (2005).
• Engendering the Budget Process in Nigeria – FDP Books 2008.
• Gender and Social Justice: Stocktaking of the 2007 Local Government Elections in Nigeria; Chapter 5 In Election Without Choosing: Final Report on the 2007/2008 Local Government Elections In Nigeria, A Transition Monitoring Group Publication 2008.
• Gender Inequality and Reproductive Rights: A Case for Coordinated Judicial Approach – FDP Books (2002)
• Gender and the 2007 Elections, Chapter 5 in Ibrahim J. and Ibeanu O., eds “Direct Capture: The 2007 Nigerian Elections and Subversion of Popular Sovereignty” (2009)
• Violence against Women and HIV/AIDS – Exploring the intersection of the Twin Pandemics – FDP Books, 2009.
• Nigeria’s Obligation to Women under Human Rights Treaties & Instruments – Issues, Realities & Challenges – Chap. 3 in ‘Affirmative Action for Women in Politics (Eds) Nwankwo O., & Surma, N.
• Legislative Advocacy Training Manuals for CSOs and Advocates; Peculiar Instincts (2011)
• Women and Politics, Perspectives from Across the Nation, Chapter 8 in Salihu A, (Ed) The Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund: Politics, Strategy and Sustainability (2011)
• Achieving 35% Affirmative Action in Nigeria: Stakeholders’ Role and the Implication for National Development – FDP Books (2012)
• Gender Inequality and South Sudan’s parallel Legal Frameworks: A Case for Coordinated Approach, UN Women South Sudan (2013)
• Implications of the Failure of the ICC to Prosecute SGBV in the Lubanga Case – Chap. 11 in ‘Domestic Implementation of the RS of ICC’ (Eds) Nwankwo O., & Olugbuo B.
TRAINING PROGRAMS ATTENDED – Selected
– Women’s Global Leadership Institute, Rutgers University, New Jersey (1999).
– HREA Internet training (Diploma) on Women’s Human Rights Advocacy (2002).
– Project Management Training Organised by the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights in collaboration with LEDAP Nigeria (2002).
– International Women’s Human Rights Advocacy Training by the Women, Law and Development International WLDI USA in Dar Es Salam. (April 2003).
– Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law of the Washington College of Law, American University, U.S.A. (2003).
– Using International Human Rights Instruments in the Enforcement of Human Rights by Organisation against Torture and Centre for Law Enforcement (CLEEN).
– Global Course on “Empowerment, HIV and Violence against Women” Online course by Development Connections (DVCN) and UNIFEM (2009).
– All the major World Conferences on Women, Human Rights etc.,
– United Nations Prep Coms on the International Criminal Court, Assembly of States Parties (ASP) Meetings on ICC,
– Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meetings, Harvard University/Macarthur Foundation/UN Consultative Conference on International Criminal Justice 2009, CEDAW meetings to consider Nigeria’s report since 2004.
– Women’s Global Leadership Institute, Rutgers University, New Jersey 1999 – Gender and Leadership training.
– HREA Internet training (Diploma) on Women’s Human Rights Advocacy 2002.
– Project Management Training Organised by the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights in collaboration with LEDAP Nigeria. 2002.
– International Women’s Human Rights Advocacy and Gender Training by the Women, Law and Development International WLDI USA in Dar Es Salam, Tanzania. April 2003.
– Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Washington College of Law, American University, U.S.A. 2003.
– Using International Human Rights Instruments in the Enforcement of Human Rights by Organisation against Torture (OMCT) and Centre for Law Enforcement (CLEEN).
– Kabissa Time-to-Get-on Line training of trainers programme, (On line Internet Training) Lagos Nigeria 2005.
– British Council Seminar on Women in Politics (UK) November 2005
– USAID M&E Internet Certificate training, 2007.
– Global Course on “Empowerment, HIV and Violence against Women” Online course by Development Connections (DVCN) and UNIFEM 2009.
– Elections Observation Training organised by WAWEO in Monrovia, Liberia 2011.
WORK ON DOMESTICATION OF CEDAW IN NIGERIA
– Organised an international Public Hearing on CEDAW and Affirmative Action at the National Assembly in 2003 with resource persons from USA, South Africa, Brazil, Uganda, and Tanzania leading to the formation of a National Coalition on Affirmative Action.
– Championing the domestication of CEDAW and African Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa at the Federal and state levels; in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and with support from Open Society Initiative for West Africa. Two states have so far domesticated CEDAW as a result.
– CIRDDOC has been part of CEDAW Shadow Report writing and lately is in the forefront of the campaign for Government to partner with Civil Society in the preparation of Nigeria Country Reports on CEDAW.
– Has published and distributed over 10,000 copies of CEDAW in Nigeria.
– Selfless Service Towards Peacebuilding in Nigeria by NSRP, Nigeria (2017)
– Women Have Wings International Courage Awards (2015).
– Nigeria’s 50 Outstanding Professionals Award by Guardian Newspapers (2015)
– Global Leaders of Integrity Merit Award for Honesty, Good Governance, Transparency and Accountability in leadership (2013)
– National Council of Women’s Societies (NCWS) Woman of Honour award (2005)
– Courageous Widows Award by WACOL (2003)
– University Women Association award of Illustrious Public Spirited Lawyer (1999)
Oby Nwankwo’s resume is extensive as she was an expert in women’s rights and attended many courses in law, gender, human rights, and women’s rights. She authored several publications on gender and women’s rights and received numerous awards; however, her biggest accomplishment was raising her seven beautiful and accomplished children after losing her husband 15 years ago.
Oby Nwankwo went to be the Lord on December 9, 2017 surrounded by her loving children. Even though Oby has left the physical world, her selfless life of service to humanity not only remains etched in our memories, but also keeps us striving to do more and more to keep her vision alive – through service. Oby is survived by her mother, siblings, children, grandchildren, and several uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews, who loved her dearly.