By Christy Anyanwu

Dr Nkem Okoro is the founder and chairperson of The Wife, an organisation that trains and empowers women to excel in their marriages and homes as excellent wives and mothers for societal transformation.


For 18 years, Dr. Nkem Okoro and The Wife team have embarked on several human development, empowerment and training programmes within and outside Nigeria.

Dr. Okoro is a seasoned educationist that retired in 2018 in the Directorate cadre of the Federal Ministry of Education after 35 years of meritorious service. In this interview, she sheds more light into issues pertaining to women, among others.

March 8 was International Women’s Day. What’s your take on the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day?

The theme of International Women’s Day 2024 (IWD 2024) is “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.” This IWD 2024 theme is a well thought out one and a wake-up call for women to learn the challenges women face and work towards solutions for those problems. Nigeria’s surging inflation, devalued currency, eroded incomes, food scarcity and widespread hunger, have worsened gender inequality and other issues facing women including poor health and low access to social services – hospitals, schools, education.

Gender inequality issues are robbing women of economic power, authority and influence in social and political spheres. Patriarchal cultural societies especially in developing countries where women are discriminated upon continue to hinder women’s progress.

A focus on this year’s theme will enhance the economic power of women more than anything else. Women with the means will start to do the things they want to do rather than expecting and depending on men. They will break barriers of gender inequality in the workplace, in earnings, social and political participation and women being able to make their own decisions.

It is hoped that this theme will sensitise and create awareness on issues hindering women and how to mitigate them. Investing in women will indeed accelerate progress in every sphere of life and societal transformation worldwide. Women in turn will positively contribute to their families, children, husbands and communities.

In what ways do you think that the theme would trigger efforts  that foster the progress of today’s women?

Today’s women still have areas that need enhancement even though women have continued to mitigate some obstacles in this contemporary time.

As International Women’s Day (IWD) is about celebrating women’s achievements, championing women’s demands for human rights, addressing gender equality issues and proffering ways to mitigate them including creating awareness and advocacy for women, this year’s theme will trigger efforts that foster the progress of today’s women through highlighting and recounting women’s past achievements which will heighten inspiration in women to conquer more grounds and also sustain them.

Discussing the theme will bring to the fore the vast areas on human rights and gender equality issues to address in the lives of today’s women such as discrimination against them in economic development, land and asset ownership, disempowerment in education, power, authority and influence, politics and top leadership positions. At the current rate of investments, it is stated that more than 340 million women and girls will still live in extreme poverty by 2030 and an additional USD 360 billion needed per year for developing countries to address gender equality under Sustainable Development Goals (UN WOMEN, Five Things to Accelerate Women’s Economic Empowerment, 2024).

It will also make women to renew their commitment to creating more vigorous awareness to their plight on gender equality issues and discrimination. Women themselves should hijack this opportunity to advocate and educate on issues that concern them.

Today, there are more work opportunities for men who also earn more than women as women are paid 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. Women need investment in their time management in terms of time spent on unpaid domestic care work and low income jobs as they spend three times more time on unpaid and unappreciated informal work.

The monetary value of women’s unpaid care work globally is at 10.8 trillion annually, three times the size of the world tech industry. It is estimated that 60 per cent of women employed globally are in the informal category of work. There should therefore be shared responsibility within the household for everyone to join in carrying the load or burden of care work. There is a need to increase women’s participation in sectors where they are currently under-represented especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This will create gender balance in the work place, contribute to determining the true cost of care work and make it possible for women to generate income in the formal labour market.

Investment in financial resources to meet women’s basic needs and start or grow their businesses – micro, small and medium enterprises – will help to address underfunding which stands globally at USD 1.7 trillion. This will increase their income and accelerate progress. Women need money to purchase computers, smartphones, other gadgets and internet access for information on getting jobs, starting and managing a business, and in keeping up with emergent technologies.

Few women own or have access to land, despite the fact that most women, especially the rural women, engage solely in agricultural activities as farmers. It is important to ensure that women have equal rights to access, own and use resources. The recent ruling by the Supreme Court, the highest court in Nigeria for the female child right to inherit properties of her father in the South Eastern part should be applauded and implemented. It is important to note that women’s economic progress improves their wellbeing, reduces gender-based violence and increases political and social participation and leadership.

Security and protection are part of the issues faced by women who are more vulnerable to conflicts, poverty, lack of social protections, violation of their economic participation, gender violence and food insecurity. All stakeholders should be challenged to invest in security which is pivotal to health and economic progress of women.

Human Rights violations, such as unjust patriarchal economic system, cultural and social discriminatory norms result in gender inequality which stand in the way of women’s access to information, networks, jobs and assets. Globally, women have only 77 per cent of legal rights enjoyed by men. These are some suggested solutions to women’s rights issues that will achieve great benefits for today’s woman: Adoption of laws and policies that support women rights; Repeal or reject discriminatory laws and legal frameworks; Protect and support human rights defenders; Hold accountable and punish human abusers; Documentation of human rights abuses and abusers; Sexual abusers report and registration; Encourage advocacy programmes; Ensure that women’s voices are amplified in all aspects of decision making; Invest in women by providing social services and programs that promote their wellbeing by combating extreme poverty, poor health care and hunger.

The theme for this year’s IWD will encourage visitation of previous initiatives. These include Africa Health Initiatives for women; Meet up with the $360 billion annual deficit in gender equality measures of 2030; Women’s Leadership Initiatives; Review maternal Mortality Initiatives; Review and enforce priority funding for women organizations.

All stakeholders, people, government and other authorities will be confronted and challenged to fulfil their commitments to the uplift of women e.g. implement gender responsive measures like the 35 per cent inclusion of women in Nigerian politics and leadership positions.

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Investment in women will indeed accelerate progress in every sphere of women’s lives and promote societal transformation. Women in turn will positively contribute to their families, children and communities as nurturers and nation builders.

Could you take us back to your secular work days and other things that keeps you going?

During my years of service, I taught science subjects in several schools, including King’s College, Lagos, where I taught for 20 years. I also served as Federal Ministry of Education Quality Assurance Evaluator (formerly Federal Inspector of Schools).

From 2021 to date, I expeditiously coordinated the construction of a laudable, fully mechanized, modern garri processing centre to alleviate the laborious work of the indigenous women farmers in my home community, Ogbuebulle, Oboro, Ikwuano LGA, Abia State, Nigeria and currently oversees its efficient running as Executive Director.

I have authored four books. These are See What The Lord Has Done, Enriching Marital Sex, Grooming The Next Generation: Effective Parenting and Mentoring of Children, and Blissful Marriage: A Self Help Resource for in-depth training on marriage. My fifth book on Bullying: its Meaning, Effect and Curbing Measures will soon be published.

Tell us more about your NGO, The Wife.

“The Wife” is a faith-based, non-governmental organization founded by me in 2006 at my 22nd wedding anniversary. The Wife is a body of married women with the aim of building excellent homes to transform our society. We achieve this through training and empowering wives and mothers with practical knowledge, wisdom and skills to excel in their roles in the family and society.

The Wife, as an organisation, has contributed to nation building through elaborate programmes in some states and locations in Nigeria, especially in the Lagos State metropolis, sub-urban communities and local government areas (LGAs), fetching me recognition as one of the few women of the Igbo extraction that contributed to the cause of Ndigbo and their development strides in Lagos State at the celebration of its 50 years’ existence in Lagos.

“The Wife” women edited many of the books I authored, which are used in training women on various aspects of life. “The Wife” participates in International Women’s Day celebrations and has always been a champion of women issues. Our celebration of International Women’s Day this year featured competitions and discussions on women’s achievements, gender equality issues and the need for investments in women.

At different times, “The Wife” organised youth conferences where topics that affect our youths such as good work ethics, career choices, self-esteem and identity issues, juvenile delinquencies and vices, relationships, courtship and marriage were discussed. We spotlighted on very unique but challenging youth issues on Reproductive Health and Sex Education that led to a three-day programme for undergraduates at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun state.

At what point did you go into garri processing?

I launched into garri processing as a legacy project in honour of the memory of my mother in-law, Deaconess Janet Okoro, as I felt God’s leading in that direction on the morning of her passing in 2019.

We eventually started the construction of the Janet Okoro Garri Processing Centre, Ogbuebule, Oboro, Ikwuano LGA, Abia State, Nigeria in 2021. The Garri processing Centre is a social enterprise. It is our grassroots effort towards socio-economic development of indigenous women farmers in our community for a better life. The use of machines to peel, grate, de-water, sieve and fry garri makes possible, faster and increased production of high quality garri in a good and sanitary environment. It also eradicates the stressful, time consuming and laborious, traditional manual method of processing garri, the major stable food made from cassava in the South Eastern part of Nigeria.

What has become of the business? Any challenge so far in the garri processing factory?

Funding of the project is majorly from members of my family, with friends and well-wishers supporting. A lot has been done with regards to the construction, fixing of the windows, doors, ceilings and roofing of the three buildings. Though more work still needed to be done, we started processing cassava to produce garri rather than leaving machines to lie fallow. A token fee which most of the women claimed to be beyond their ability to pay is charged. We have not been able to break even financially.

The most challenging issue affecting continued processing at the Garri Processing Centre is the incessant hike in the price of diesel, and the fact that we use an average of 25 litres every week. There is very poor public power supply, resulting in this huge spending of over N177,000.00 each month to purchase diesel to process cassava for our rural women farmers.

Another challenge we are contending with is the monthly staff remuneration. Monthly income from processing cassava is only about one fifth of the monthly expense. We have to always source for a total of about N420,000.00 every month to keep the Garri Processing Centre afloat and this figure increases whenever there is breakdown of equipment with its resultant increased maintenance cost.

Very recently and up to the time of granting this interview, we are seriously considering closing down the Garri Processing Centre because of the continued high cost of diesel and our inability to source for funds to run the centre. Hence our plea for support and assistance to keep the centre afloat and running.

Our prayers for prompt assistance are so that our rural indigenous women will continue to enjoy the benefits of processing their cassava easily at subsidized rates and more efficiently in a very clean environment.

Who do you consider as your greatest influence in life?

The greatest influence in my life is my encounter with Jesus Christ in my teenage years as my Saviour. My walk with Jesus mapped the part of right living and sense of purpose early in my life as I study and obey God’s Word, especially the two greatest commandments in Matthew 22:36-40: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself.”

They are pivotal to personal peace, peace with others and peace among nations!

What lessons have you learnt about life?

The lessons I have learnt about life is to positively impact lives, as I will only be remembered by what I did!