Josephine Nzerem

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2002
Human Angle


This profile was prepared when Josephine Nzerem was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
In Nigeria, as in other countries deeply rooted in patriarchal norms, women face numerous obstacles to gaining independence and even enjoying basic rights as citizens. Josephine sees that Nigerian women can accelerate the process of changing traditions that limit their roles as individuals, wives, and mothers by actively involving men in the change process. In this way she is neutralizing much of the hostility that women face from men on highly sensitive cultural and traditional issues like widowhood. She believes that if men truly understand the dire predicament of many women, they will become active and willing participants in the quest for women's liberation.
Her idea is simple and powerful. In the communities in which she works, she presents men with the problems of widows and their children. Enabling men for the first time to see the problems through the eyes of their wives and other women in the community, Josephine then begins a dialogue that focuses on devising solutions to a few concrete dilemmas like how to provide for transfer of property after the death of a husband. She argues that the problem of widows and children would not exist in the first place if the men took steps to provide for their families in the event of their death. In Nigeria, Josephine's efforts mark the first time anyone has effectively engaged men in addressing the oppression of women. The traditional approach has been women championing women's rights in ways that inspire stiff opposition from men. Josephine is spreading her ideas through Rotary chapters and church and village associations across Nigeria.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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