Janet Okala was born in Onitsha in 1894 as the third child and first daughter of Odukwe Odili. She later became a resident of Owerrinta where she became known for her political activism. Her alias was “Mama Bread” as she also owned a bakery.
In 1929, Okala led protesting women in the Owerrinta region during the Aba Women’s War. According to historian Nina Emma Mba, Okala had previously provided leadership and counseling to local women but rose to particular prominence during the war.
In 1945, Okala formed the Enugu Women’s Association and was elected one of its vice presidents. Following a 1949 visit from Funmilayo Ransome Kuti (FRK), the group changed its name to the Enugu branch of the Nigerian Women’s Union. In describing FRK’s visit, Okala wrote that “Before that time women at Enugu had no right to probe into the affairs of their country. Mrs. Kuti on her arrival educated us.” Local newspapers such as the West African Pilot and the Daily Times celebrated the group’s name change as a symbol of nationalist solidarity among Nigerian women.