Updated: Mar 29
In celebration of Women's History Month, Equanimity Foundation (EQF) is featuring two of our partners in recognition of their tremendous work combating gender-based violence (GVB) and protecting the rights and dignities of women in: Grassroots Researchers Association (GRA), and Society for the Improvement of Rural People (SIRP). Through our partnership, we have proposed projects to ameliorate the conditions women face in Nigeria, particularly pertaining to sexual and gender based violence (GBV).
EQF is committed to collaborative, transformative initiatives that amplify local voices by building upon local capacities, and existing axioms of knowledge. In this way, EQF is motivated to build sustainability and longitudinal social return of investment (SROI). Inspired by this value proposition, EQF engages in equitable bi-directional learning with GRA and SIRP by leveraging each organization's strengths and experiences. Today, we celebrate our partners who share in the vision of a just world, and who are fortified by their motivation to alleviate the suffering of marginalized communities in Nigeria.
In Southeastern Nigeria, SIRP is fighting for the rights and protection of vulnerable women and girls, through strategic programming, sensitization campaigns, and education. Established in 1988, SIRP is a non-governmental organization (NGO), working to improve the health and well-being of the marginalized and challenging gender inequitable systems in rural Nigeria.
Nigeria experiences persistent multi-dimensional conflict leading to the death and displacement of millions of people. Recent terrorist activity by the militant group Boko Haram has resulted in more than 2.5 million people displaced and over 37,500 deaths in the Lake Chad Basin. Religious conservatism heavily influences GBV and encourages practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM). Women account for 79% of the total displaced people in Nigeria and are the primary victims of GBV. Nigeria also accounts for the third-highest number of women and girls in the world who have undergone FGM, affecting 19% of Nigerian women and girls aged 15 to 49. Nigeria has more child brides than any other country in Africa, with over 23 million victims. 25% of girls in Nigeria experience sexual violence and 50% endure physical violence .
Non-state armed groups (NSAGs) in
Northwest and Central Nigeria, kidnap for ransom, rape, and pillage communities. They also exacerbate the culturally and religiously imposed physical insecurity women face. In the beginning of March 2021, 279 girls were kidnapped from their school in Zamfara, during a raid conducted by armed gunmen . Although they were later returned, this case epitomizes the significant threat to psychosocial well-being that women and girls experience while doing activities to improve their future such as attending school.
International aid agencies seeking to provide support face tremendous difficulties implementing programs. Our partners described the challenges involved with GBV programming: a prevailing culture of patriarchy, weak governance structures, and a lack of institutional accountability. However, despite these significant bottlenecks, EQF supports GRA and SIRP’s efforts to challenge abusive systems and assist women. EQF empowers local organizations to drive change so it can be locally-led and owned. We believe external interventions that do not have local buy-in are doomed to fail.
For this reason, EQF is amplifying the message and reach of SIRP to raise awareness about the critical work a local organization is doing to drive systemic change from within. SIRP’s programs and activities are anchored in local communities. Led by Dr. Chris N. Ugwu, former head of Enugu civil service, SIRP maintains a bottom-up and top-down approach to challenging gender insecurity. SIRP engages local government and security personnels in sensitization, accountability, and transparency initiatives. The optimism of Dr. Ugwu is infectious. He believes that, “Together we shall create a change for positive masculinity and end patriarchal social and cultural norms that have kept women and girls in subordinate conditions; thus frustrating the lives, dreams, and goals of women and girls.”
SIPRs primary focus is championing women. It creates GBV awareness campaigns to eliminate gender biases and engage Nigerian community leaders to curtail child marriage and FGM. They lobbied the Nigerian government to get the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act 2015 passed. The law aims “to eliminate violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment for offenders.” SIRP also implements programming to help women understand their rights under this law.
As part of SIRP’s sensitization campaigns, they have employed creative methods to raise FGM awareness. SIRP created a comic book focused on ending FGM, using the VAPP Act 2015 victory as a central theme. SIRP uses comics to continue its efforts to advance the role of women and girls in Nigeria.
SIRP joined the MenEngage network in Africa to “introduce transformative norms and practices as a veritable antidote measure to practices and inequalities that harm girls and women in the country.” Through the alliance, SIRP engages men and boys to introduce gender equality and to empower them to end the practice of FGM and child marriage in southeastern Nigeria.
To support EQF’s evidence and data-driven approach, we partnered with GRA, an organization that was started to aggregate and analyze data. In direct response to the Boko Haram insurgency in Northeastern Nigeria, GRA was started to promote evidence-driven approaches for informed decision-making and to ensure sustainable solutions.
One of GRA's core values is to create solutions that have a well-defined end result. They are committed to impact focused initiatives. With a strong focus on providing psychosocial support, GRA has developed a Building Survivors Network (BSN) program to coordinate, mentor, and support over 500 victims of conflict-related sexual violence in North-Eastern Nigeria, particularly in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states, which is a region with one of Nigeria’s largest refugee populations.
GRA’s commitment to human rights and women’s empowerment is manifested in their program, Strengthening the Capacity and Oversight of Human Rights Principles in Counterterrorism Across Lake-Chad Region (SCO-HRI), where they fought for justice for victims through judiciary actions, and brought international attention to human rights abuses and violations through documentation, litigation, and monitoring cases of violations and abuses committed in the core northeastern states of Borno and Yobe. During this period, 112 cases were documented, 24 were taken to court to seek redress, 18 were won and 6 were discharged. To ensure a multi-dimensional approach, GRA, in collaboration with local stakeholders, created a coordination unit that included pro-bono lawyers, project staff, and volunteers who met monthly to screen cases and strategize how to pursue justice for victims of human rights violations.
GRA also implemented programming to address diverse communities in need by focusing on persons with disabilities (PWD). GRA self-funded a research project titled: “They called us a senseless beggar: Challenges of Person with Disability in North-Eastern Nigeria.” The research examined the conditions, vulnerabilities and rights Of PWDs in Nigeria, particularly in the crises-prone North-Eastern Nigeria region. GRA interviewed over 70 PWDs on the impact the ongoing conflict had on their daily lives. The findings indicate that the support for PWDs from government agencies and development partners is insufficient. GRA made recommendations and continues working with NGOs and international organizations to develop inclusive programming and sustainable aid to PWDs. GRA takes pride in their community-led approaches and their intersectional commitment to women’s empowerment.
Join us today as we celebrate the strong commitment to our partners on the ground and mutual dedication to improving the lives of women and girls worldwide.
 https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/boko-haram-nigeria  https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/female-genital-mutilation/ https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/03/03/972623049/what-the-kidnapped-nigerian-schoolgirls-have-to-tell-us  https://reporting.unhcr.org/node/13640?y=2020#year