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Attending the reception in honor of Dr Joe Okei- Odumakin (one of the 2013 international women of courage awardees from Nigeria) today re-fired the passion in me to make a difference for women and girls in my life time.

I was pleasantly stunned when Dr Joe Okei as we fondly call her in her keynote address said that her mission is to “change Nigerian women’s language of silence”. These words resonated with the objective of the voices of our future program. For the first time I realized that there is actually a language called “silence” and this language is somewhat only spoken by women. One thing I know about languages is that, once it is not spoken often and if the numbers of those speaking it continue to decrease then the language stands the risk of going into extinction. I know that Women all over the world are united in their struggles to ensure this language goes into extinction.

Dr Joe Okei, recounting her years of struggle to change this language in Nigeria recounted to us how she was tortured and hurled into detention on many occasions. Even in the face of death she stood her ground and continues to nail the coffin of silence by speaking out and mobilizing Nigerian women to speak out. With the passion with which she spoke today, I was happy to be part of her success. I wished my friend Olutosin Oladosu was here, to hear this epitome of courage, a symbol of Nigerian woman hood demonstrate what it is to be the voice for women and social justice.

Dr Joe – Okei is indeed a female activist of repute, she is truly a woman of courage; she is fearless, bold and ready to stand on the side of the Nigerian woman. She is a heroine and role model that we look up to. That award woman of courage is an award for every Nigerian woman who has been working to end the language of silence in Nigeria.
Today, I know that every woman who still speaks the language of silence can find a vibrant voice to bury silence. Let the “speak out language” come alive! Let our voices change the tide of gender inequality skewed against women and girls.
As I engage the voices of our future application for the next four weeks, silence can no longer be golden. “Speak out” is the language. Whatever the outcomes, there is no changing the language from speak out. With our collective voices mobilized through the voices of our future we can ensure that the language of silence goes into extinction.
To my ever committed, articulate and courageous comrade Dr Joe Okei, I say Aluta continua! Victoria Ascerta!
To all the VOF applicants I say, let the “speak out” show begin!


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