IHUNNAYA Anthonia Odinkalu, mother of Chidi Odinkalu, former chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission will be buried on March 29, in Odinkalu’s compound in Umuerem Umuhu-Okabia, Orsu Local governmenr area of Imo State. Requiem Mass will take place at the St. Joseph’s Pro-Cathedral, Umuhu-Okabia, Orsu, Imo State by 10 am.
Interment follows immediately after Mass by 12:45pm while reception of guest will be by 2pm.
Aged 74, Ihunnaya died on February 22, after suffering from a terminal illness.
According to Chidi, she was diagnosed with the illness that would ultimately prove terminal a little over five years ago. “Ihunnaya decided to defer her own treatment in order to nurse her husband who was then ailing. By the time of his burial in January 2016, her own diagnosis turned out to be a malignant metastasis. Given less than one year to survive, she said she had one final class to teach and set about writing the story of her life with patriarchy. In the event, she beat the doctors’ prognosis by well over two years,” Chidi said in a tribute to her.
Prior to her death, Ihunnaya was a teacher and social crusader. Over two decades beginning from 1962 and lasting through a civil war, post-war reconstruction and mothering ten of her own children, Ihunnaya built a career in education as a teacher, schools manager and social justice and reproductive health advocate for women.
Her primary concern was with patriarchy and equipping women to create safe spaces for themselves in contexts in which such spaces were rare and opportunities for leisure and renewal for women did not exist. When she got married in 1964, she recalled, the leadership of the local Christian Women’s Organisation, CWO, was in the hands of two men as if the women were children, incapable of organizing or leading themselves. To make it a women’s organization, she led the women to organize and wrest leadership from the men.
It was a concern that would inform her life-long investment in reproductive health education for rural women. She traveled long distances teaching women the importance of having the skills to manage the burdens of family sizes, child spacing, and numbers. This commitment came from hard lessons learnt from her brutal experience from having had and raised 10 children of her own.
“Over a lifetime of living with patriarchy in the south-east of Nigeria, this female teacher, school manager and mother had become a quietly effective advocate against some of its most extreme tendencies with a mix of subtlety, stubbornness and calculated risk-taking,” Chidi said.
She was born in March 1945 in the old Orlu Division of what would later become the Eastern Region of Nigeria, the first child of a Warrant Chief, Ogueze Agha, who named her Ihunnaya, meaning “the face of her father”. Her father, a produce trader, who had received no formal education, desired to redress that deficiency with his children. “It was an era in which young girls were taught that their most elevated ambitions were to be wives and mothers. In primary school, she excelled, skipping the first year and being admitted as an eight year-old into the second. After four years, her local girls-only school run my Catholic Missionaries had no more classes left. Young girls were not supposed, it seemed, to go beyond four years of basic education. The few who desired to had to transfer to another girls-only school a considerable distance away.
“Patriarchy, she argued, did not invent or replicate itself. It was enabled by family systems that made boys entitled to expect service from girls and women happy to see themselves as vassals and vessels for reproduction. So, she decided that all her children would receive life skills in cooking, cleaning, home management and child-minding. A roster for domestic chores ensured that all her children took turns in doing all of these. As a teacher, she said, the first test of her skills was with her children. All of them would also become her pupils or students through school, Chidi wrote.
She is survived by her children
– Mar. 25, 2019 @ 19:10 GMT /