Member Spotlight – The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs) Nigeria

The AMSHeR Coalition – Member Spotlight

The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs) Nigeria

tiers-square-logo-300x300

TIERs is a Nigerian-based registered non-for-profit organisation working to protect and promote the human rights of sexual minorities nationally and regionally. They are committed to bringing about a society that is free from discrimination and harm on the grounds of sexual orientation. TIERs works towards this goal through education, empowerment and engagement with the many publics in Nigeria. TIERs is a founding member of AMSHeR and below we have briefly unpacked the role of the organisation and their involvement with AMSHeR.

TIERs was founded in 2005 as a way to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic which plagued the MSM community in Nigeria. The original TIERs secretariat was made up of a group of friends and although they started as an informal group, they quickly formalised, and in 2006 registered as a NGO. TIERs expanded their focus from HIV/AIDS to one which included policy advocacy for health rights and the social and economic inclusion of LGBT persons. The organisation further more began to advocate at a national, regional and international level.

At regional level, TIERs placed more emphasis on engaging in Francophone Africa (Western Africa), a predominantly French speaking region. Programming in this region focused on capacity building, i.e. providing technical capacity building skills for nascent LGBT leaders at a national level with the intention of these learnings being passed on to others at a regional level. This approach was taken as the organisation’s focus has shifted from one which purely focused on MSM and associated HIV interventions, to a focus which incorporated aspects of human rights.

TIERs has garnered many learnings which helped them make tangible changes in the LGBT policy space in Nigeria. Their approach to utilising advocacy on international platforms where more pressure can be placed on key role players to initiate change, is an excellent example of these learnings. This approach has proven to work best when it comes to human rights advocacy and has had an almost immediate effect on the current human rights landscape in Nigeria.

TIERs has furthermore identified a major human rights gap that exists in the LGBT community. They have created “safe spaces” for members of the LGBT community and provided them with access to legal services and safe environments for individuals to interact and “be themselves”.

A TIERs training system has provided volunteers at a community level with the requisite knowledge in order to respond immediately to human rights infringements.

Although considered small, TIERs is a highly impactful organisation with a staff compliment of 13 full time employees, 72 local volunteers, 12 volunteers from Ghana (who are also a part of the TIERs leadership programme), 7 volunteers from Gambia, 2 volunteers in Sierra Leone and 10 in Liberia.

TIERs projects are primarily focused on human rights, sexual health and capacity building and AMSHeR continues to collaborate and jointly implement projects with TIERs around these three focus areas. One such project being the Men’s Health Advocacy Project (MHAP) under which the Nigeria MSM Health Scorecard was developed.

AMSHeR supports TIERs advocacy work at regional and international levels, and recently assisted TIERs to participate at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Being a part of the AMSHeR Coalition has been invaluable to TIERs. TIERs have been able to learn from best practices across the continent and through networking opportunities have been exposed to the various ways in which countries approach advocacy and activism. It is exposure to these different approaches which have helped TIERs to uncover insights which are applicable to the Nigerian human rights environment.

TIERs is definitely making an impact, having recently launched the results of the LGBT Perception Survey, which helped to assess the impact of public education on the perception and associated acceptance of the LGBT community in Nigeria. The results of this survey signalled a positive improvement, moving from a blatant 97% of participants being negative towards to homosexuality, to 87% in 2015.

This is positive, strong indication that the public sensitisation workshops held by TIERs are starting to have a positive effect. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

TIERs is dedicated to continue with their hard work and we are sure to expect some exciting new developments from them in the coming 18 months.

To find out more about TIERs or to get in contact please go to: www.theinitiativeforequalrights.org