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Ikwo Oka

Centre for Community Empowerment & Sustainable Development (CESDEV)
Founder/ Executive Director,
Gbagada, Lagos
Born in Lagos, Nigeria to John and Grace Udoh in a household of four female children and one male child, I grew up refusing to recognize inequalities.

I hold a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree in Biochemistry from the University of Calabar, a Masters in Health Planning and Management (MHPM) from the University of Maiduguri, and a Master of Arts (MA) in Conservation and Community Change from Future Generation University, West Virginia, USA. A Harry Frank Guggenheim (HFG) Foundation African scholar, I hold certificates in Health Systems Strengthening (HSS), Social Sector Management (SSM), Livelihoods and Markets. I am an alumna of Coady International Institute (Canada), Enterprise Development Centre, Pan Atlantic University (Lagos, Nigeria) and Galilee International Management Institute (Israel).

Over a period of 21 years, I worked at various levels for profit and not-for- profit organizations: developing and deploying expertise in health systems management, community development & practice; successfully piloting and coordinating several donor funded community health programs reaching over 10 Million target beneficiaries, and raising over $47million in grant funds.

Well-versed in translating missions and goals into operating plans with clear benchmarks and annual objectives, I am great at hands-on community based research and program management, and very passionate about community empowerment through impactful and respectful engagement. My greatest motivation as a community development expert cum social entrepreneur has been to gain experience and answers on how to move women out of poverty. Hence every step in my professional development and career has been dedicated towards finding answers to the poor socio-economic state of women in Africa.

I co-own and manage THE RESOURCE SPACE, where I provide flexible work space business support services to start-ups, women entrepreneurs and budding small businesses. I am also Founder and Executive Director of Centre for Community Empowerment and Sustainable Development (CESDEV), a non profit with the mission of locating local specific resource, creating supportive environment, designing and implementing programmes that promote women and young people economic self sufficiency. As a mentor, I serve over 35 women entrepreneurs, under The Resource Space flagship women business accelerator program- BWISE and the prestigious Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur Programme (TEEP): providing women entrepreneurs, women owned enterprise and start-up non profit organizations the necessary support they require in their startup phase; successfully raising over $500000 in business/grants funds for women entrepreneurs.

My personal and professional goals in the next five to ten years include: reaching 2000 women entrepreneurs with various enterprise development resource, successfully setting up an indigenous women's investment fund that will provide a platform for raising start-up and growth funds for women entrepreneurs to set up micro and small businesses, completing a PhD with a focus on researching and demonstrating a correlation between women economic empowerment, financial independence and entrepreneurship, in strengthening community systems for sustainable development. Results from my research hopefully will pave up for adaptive framework that will enhance women economic empowerment in developing and low income countries.

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