Joanna Maduka: Woman who charted the path for female engineers

Joanna Maduka: Woman who charted the path for female engineers

Omolara Ojekunle

The society is changing fast, and the old hidebound traditions are giving way to new, one of the area where we have witnessed this transition is in the aspect of gender competition for a niche in public space.

For decades, before and following Independence, either in the sphere of politics, governance, business and economy, the country was informally structured along patriarchal line with women occupying the bottom of the ladders.

This has changed drastically in the last couple of decades, following the determination of women to claim their high ground and be at par with menfolk.

In pharmaceutical industry,we have heard of the Stella Okolis, the Akunyilis, and in the Corporate Nigeria, we have the likes of Kuforiji Olubi and many others.
Joanna Maduka is yet one of such women who have redrawn the map of gender relations.

Maduka, Nigeria’s first female President of Engineering apex body, Council for regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, COREN.

In a profession widely regarded as difficult and too complex for women, and for effect, many men even fear to tread given its link to mathematics, Maduka, is one of the first women to break the jinx and untied the “Gordian Knots” of engineering.

Today, Maduka, holds the record as the first female engineer in Nigeria to attain several feats among her peers. This unique lady with a Midas touch, has contributed immensely to the growth of the country, especially in the energy sector.

She is a member of Gender Renewable Energy Sources and Development Applications (GRESDA), a programme under the United Nations Development Fund for Women, International Network of Women Science and Technology INWES.

As early as 1974 she became a Fellow of the Council for Regulations of Engineering in Nigeria, eventually becoming its first female President .

Born in Ilesa, Osun State on May 6, 1941, to the family of Late Daniel Dada and Olufunmilayo Layinka.

She is the first child of the family. After her primary education, she went for her advanced level at the Nigerian College of Art, Science and Technology, Ibadan, Oyo State, in 1962, after which she proceeded to the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), where she obtained a degree in Applied Physics, with 2nd class upper Division.

Engr Joana was successful at the graduate-ship examination of the institution of electrical engineers UK in 1966 and earned her Master’s Degree in Engineering from Trinity College Dublin, an academically reputed institution in 1969.

Engr. Joana’s career started when she became a graduate engineer at the first television broadcasting station in Nigeria, Western Nigerian Television, WNTV; Ibadan, Oyo State, in 1965, where she spent one year, before joining the University of Ibadan as a lecturer.

It was while she was at WNTV, Ibadan that she met her future husband, Engineer Vincent Ifeanyi Maduka, a veteran broadcaster, administrator, who later became the first Director-General, Nigerian Television Authority, NTA.

Joana was a lecturer at the University of Ibadan’s Department of Applied Physics between 1966 and 1970. Thereafter, she joined Leccom Associates, a consulting firm for engineers and rose to the position of a principal partner in 1975.

In 1993 she founded Friends of the Environment (FOTE) with a motive to sustain renewable energy, waste management and empowerment of women across the globe.

The body is an international network of women with headquarters in the Netherland, and has been in existence since 1993, carrying out different activities and research connected to mainstream gender issues relating to energy.

Beautiful and gracious, engineer Maduka is passionate about promoting the cause of Non Government Organisation’s (NGOs) especially on activities relating to women.

Her engineering resume is intimidating. She became the first female fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers FNSE, Honorary Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Science Technology, 1987, Honorary Fellow, Yaba College of Technology in 1998 and first female Fellow, the Nigerian Academy of engineering.

She has served in numerous organizations both national and international, Governing Councils of tertiary institutions and committees including but not limited to Federal Polytechnic, Idah [1980-1984, [1986-1988, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, [1990-1995, Implementation committee for the commercialization of National Electric Power Authority 1989-1990.

The octogenarian was inducted as the ninth and first female President of the Academy of Engineers on 23rd June, 2016. She is also the Chairperson of the International Forum for Women in Energy OIL and Gas (WEOG).

Her group, Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria, APWEN, has been responsible for fostering many activities aimed at encouraging girls into the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and giving support to women pursuing engineering courses in higher institutions across the country, including helping them to thrive in their work place.

She has through her influence at APWEN, been encouraging girl-child study STEM especially with her flagship, ‘Take a Girl to Work’ scheme. Under this programme a girl is allowed to accompany a female engineer to work to expose her to the work the engineer does. This generous feat has been a success since the startup of the organization in 1982 when she founded.

Maduka has held coveted positions in the Engineering industry and her contributions finally drew the attention of the federal government to earn her a national award: Member of the Order of Nigeria, MON, for her meritorious service to the nation.

She has served on the Boards of several polytechnics & Universities across the nation, and is the First female governing board member of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

She is a founding executive member of the Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas Company (NLNG), and was instrumental to the full take-off of the company’s operations in Nigeria.

She identifies with her immediate community as she serves as current President of the Ijesha Society, a socio- cultural body advancing the rights of the Ijesha populace in South-west Nigeria.

Engr. Maduka who recently turned 80 year on May 6, 2021, is happily married and her marriage is blessed with children who are currently doing well in their various endeavours.