Mrs. Ekimwona Igbinedion is the President and Founder, Idia Renaissance and the Edo Underprivileged Children Scholarship Trust Fund. She is also the wife of two-time executive Governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion.
Born on the 4th of August 1959 into the family of Pa Benjamin Norense and Mrs. Grace Iyonawan Oyemwense in Benin- City, Edo state, she had her primary education at
ST. Emmanuel Anglican School and her secondary education at Baptist High School, both in Benin City. In 1978, she enrolled at the Newbury College, Massachusetts from where she proceeded to Boston University to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics in 1981 and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration in 1982.
While at the University, she was actively involved in Students’ Affairs and was elected Vice President, Umoja Black Students Association of Boston University in 1980.
She returned to Nigeria for her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Programme in 1983 and served in the Accounts Department, NYSC Headquarters, Lagos. She also worked as Financial Consultant to Environmental Design Associates, an Architectural firm between 1984 and 1987.
Her deep desire to help the underprivileged in society first became apparent in 1988 when she organized several charity programmes under the auspices of her firm, Zena Promotions. The proceeds realized from these events were shared among four orphanages in Benin City.
Encouraged by the success of these programmes, Mrs.Igbinedion went further to sponsor children from the Oronsaye Orphanage Home through primary and secondary education.
This was apart from the several other young people she sponsored to attain higher standard of education and economic empowerment.
Spurred on by the successes she recorded in her drive to contribute her quota towards the betterment of the plight of the less privileged, Mrs. Igbinedion established the Edo Underprivileged ChildrenScholarship Trust Fund on the on the 8th of July 1999.
In line with her principle, ”an educated mind is a productive mind”, Eki, as she is fondly called, has been able to render assistance to indigent children who would have otherwise been unable to acquire basic education. Over 600 children have benefitted from this Trust Fund.
Eki’s passion for improving the lot of the less privileged extends to women and young people. Her position as the Wife of the Governor afforded her an opportunity to witness and understand ill and the extensive damage done to the people of her state by the gradual erosion of their strong social and cultural values through the vice of Human Trafficking. In addressing this social malaise,she initiated and established a non-government, not-for-profit organization (NGO), Idia Renaissance on July 1,1999. A major strategy of this NGO in achieving its objectives was the establishment of the Edo State Skills Acquisition Centre, Evboumodu, which was commissioned on the 13th of July,2000.
The Centre was designed to provide a viable alternative for young girls mostly within the ages of 15 and 23 years and women from poor backgrounds who had little or no formal education and no learned skills. The Centre provided free Vocational training and Micro-Credit facility for such young girls and women with the aim of economically empowering them for self-sustenance. The Centre had impacted the lives of over 200 young girls and women by the time She handed it over to the Edo State Government shortly before she left office as Wife of the Governor.
Her work through Idia Renaissance, further revealed that a number of young girls and women who were repatriated or who returned after being trafficked to foreign countries for prostitution, were carriers of either the HIV or had full blown AIDS. Again, she employed her office as a platform to raise awareness about the dreaded disease and to seek collaboration with persons and agencies to help combat the menace in the State. In recognition of her efforts, the Edo State Government appointed her Chairman of the State Action Committee on AIDS (SACA).
In order to advance the cause of women in a broader context of human emancipation and sustainable development and to highlight the key and multiple roles women play in the development process of a compklex society like ours, Mrs.EkiIgbinedion initiated and convened the first Annual Conference ofEdo Women, with the theme, “Women in National Development”. This maiden edition of the conference held between the 18th and 20th of Februaury, 2004.
Notable Resource persons at that conference were Prof. C.E. Okojie of the Department of Economics and Statistics, University of Benin, Barr. Mrs. Josephine Anenih, National Women Leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, Lady U.C. Nwizu(OFR),then Comptroller General of Nigerian Immigration Service, Prof. Eugene Okpere, Chief Medical Director, University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH),Hon. Justice Funmilayo Oni-Okpaku(Rtd),the Chief Judge of Edo State, Dr. Mrs. Tina Ideh, M.D Prime Opticals, Lady Winifred OsaruOnyeonwu, first female Permanent Secretary, first female Commissioner of defunct Bendel State, Princess Grace Alumoge, Zonal Director, NTA, Benin Zone, Prof. Christina Omoifo and Senator Mary Henry, Distinguished Senator, Republic of Ireland, among many others.
The Conference continued to hold annually,on 22-23 February 2005, 20-21 February 2006 and 15 March 2007.
By this, she showed faithfulness to her desire to highlight the role of women in the society, to encourage women to rise above the challenges of life and hold fast to their dignity both as individuals and as a gender.
In 2004, July 8 to be precise, Mrs. Igbinedion established the Youth Resource Centre in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF). The Centre operates to create awareness in the minds of young persons about the dangers of Human Trafficking and other social vices. It also provides Vocational Skills training.
Mrs. Igbinedion, through her NGO, Idia Renaissance, lobbied for the enactment of the Anti Prostitution Bill. This Bill was passed on August 9, 2000 and subsequently signed into law on 11th September,2000 by the then State Governor, Chief Dr. Lucky Igbinedion. It is known as the Criminal Code (Amendment) Law2000. It amends some provisions of the Criminal Code Cap 48, Laws of Bendel State.
Not unmindful of the potency of peer influence in the mind of the young, she ensured that Idia Clubwas inaugurated on 12 February, 2001. This was used as another pedestal to teach positive habits and mind set in young persons, especially those in the secondary schools. Idia Club was launched in all 18 local government areas of the State.
She oversaw the formation and composition of the Edo State Advisory Committee on Women Development.The Committee, established on 4th November 1999, is drawn from Women-focused NGOs in Edo State and Women in Politics. This group has been instrumental in the sponsorship and lobby for Women friendly Bills at the State and National Assemblies. The Lagos chapter of this Committee was established on 16th May, 2001.
As a result of the positive outcome of her efforts, the Edo State Committee on Human Trafficking, in 2005, created the Edo State Job Bank for the sole purpose of creating a link between private employers of labour and unemployed citizens of the State, graduates and artisans alike.In recognition of her contribution to the welfare of the less privileged Children and Women, Mrs.EkiIgbinedion has received several awards, both locally and internationally, some of which are:
• Nigeria Women Award,2000
• Award of Excellence’ by the Girl Guide Association, Edo State Chapter,2000
• Woman of the Year’ Merit Award by the Weekend Observer,2001
• Honorary Award by the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, Edo State Branch,2001
• Merit Award by the Association of Poverty Eradication Beneficiaries of Nigeria,2002
• Award for Excellence by Nigerian Union of Journalists,2004
• Distinguished Volunteer of the Year Award’ by International Association of Volunteer Effort(I.A.V.E),2005
• Award for offsetting the cost of repatriating Edo indigenes abandoned in foreign countriesby the Assistant Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service,2001
• Prestigious Woman of Valour by the Nigerian Women Association of Georgia,2005.
• Key to the City of Carson, by the Mayor,City Council and the Citizens of Carson,California,2005
• Certificate of Recognition of Distinction as a Devoted Ambassador of Goodwill by the City of Carson, California,2005
• Certificate of Recognition for her outstanding work and Community involvement in the U.S.A. as well as Africa, presented by Dianne.E. Watson(PhD) Member of Congress, 33rd Congressional District,2005
• Certificate of Recognition by the California Legislature,2005
• Certificate of Recognition by the City of Los Angeles,2005She has further been honoured since then till date as
• Justice of Peace by Edo State Government,2005
• Nigerian Red Cross ’Award of Honour’,2005
• Ambassador of Goodwill, by the African Focus,2005
• Honours for her contribution to the fight against Human Trafficking in Edo State by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons(NAPTIP),2007
• This Day Award for pioneering the fight against Human Trafficking in Nigeria, presented by former President Bill Clinton and Mrs. Cherie Blair
• Certificate of Excellence by the National Centre for Women Development, Abuja
• Achievement Award in recognition of her outstanding performance in alleviating the plight of Returned Migrants in Nigeria by the Initiative for Youth Awareness on Migration, Immigration, Development and Reintegration(IYAMIDR)
• Award of Excellence for outstanding contribution to the development of Youth through Idia Renaissance by Peace and Progress Initiative
• CLIP Outstanding Personality Award by Creative Leadership Initiative Project
On the 6th of March 2003,she attended an International Forum on Path Breaking Strategies that work for the Eradication of Human Trafficking on Global Perspective, at the invitation of the United States Government. She was also invited by the United Kingdom to address the House of Commons, whichShe did on 23rd September, 2004. She has appeared on several television interviews, among which is her special feature on the BBC Hard Talk, where she spoke on issues that border on Human Trafficking, Sex trade and assisting the underprivileged.
Since the end of her husband’s tenure as Executive Governor of Edo State, Mrs. Igbinedion has continued her work as a private citizen and through her NGO, Idia Renaissance. She is an active member, Board of Trustees, Network of Civil Society Organizations against Child Trafficking, Abuse and Labour (NACTAL). She is the Executive Director, Encyclopedia Britannica (West Africa), Member, Board of Directors, Igbinedion Education Centre and a member, Vital Voices International. Mrs. EkiIgbinedion is happily married with Children and Grandchildren.