The Initiative For Equal Rights

2020 in Review – Powering Through THE Year ✊

Dear Colleagues,
 We are excited to be sending you this letter to tell you all about our work in 2020, and what we are looking forward to in 2021.

2020 was a tough year globally as a result of the Covid-19 virus and the ensuing pandemic. All over the world, the pandemic disrupted the work of Civil Society Organizations and Human Rights defenders, and that did not exclude us.

Our team had to work from home for several months, many projects and physical events were put on hold and our community centre was closed to the public. But regardless, we found creative ways to continue to deliver essential services including healthcare, medication and mental health support to our community amidst lockdowns and social distancing. We even held a virtual Pride event in June!

Read on for more on what 2020 looked like at TIERs. Brace yourself for a long read.

Our Team

2020 was a year of growth and changes for us at TIERs. We were able to expand our team to enable us to increase the scope and quality of our work. Some new roles we were excited to add included the in-house clinical psychologist and the gender democracy officer.

Executive Transition – We recently announced the appointment of Omolara Oriye as our new Executive Director. Omolara served as the Director of Human Rights and Advocacy at TIERs for 3 years and as the acting Executive Director in 2018 before taking an academic sabbatical to study for a master’s degree in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. 

Omolara took over from Xeenarh Mohammed, who joined TIERs as the Executive Director in May 2018 to help usher in a new strategic plan, build new and important strategic partnerships with local and international partners, and help improve and stabilise operations and organizational processes.

Read the full press release here

Human Rights and Advocacy

 Under our Human Rights and Advocacy work, we carried out monitoring and documentation of human rights violations that were reported to us through community members and partners in the various parts of Nigeria. We also provided pro-bono legal aid service to people who experienced violation and discrimination based on their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

SOGIESC and Human Rights Training Workshops – As part of our continuous efforts to ensure that relevant stakeholders have an awareness of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity/Expression and Sex characteristics (SOGIESC), we facilitated a series of training workshops for:

  1. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Staff
  2. Police Officers within Lagos
  3. Neuropsychological Doctors from the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA)
  4. Journalists and Broadcasters (on responsible reporting)
  5. Young LGBT+ Activists

The #AcquitThe57 Case and Campaign – In 2018 we took over legal representation and advocacy for the #Egbeda57 case, and in 2019 kicked off the #AcquitThe57 campaign, calling for their acquittal. In 2020, for the second anniversary of their arrests, we brought back the campaign. Thanks to our hardworking and dedicated legal team, and the pressure from the media campaign amplified by our supporters online, the case was struck out in October 2020. 
Read the case timeline here.

National Movement Building Summit – We organized a movement-building summit for LGBT+ human right defenders and lawyers from different organizations across the country to develop collective strategic advocacy and legal plans for 2021. Working together with other human rights defenders and organizations is very important to us as we strive to achieve our collective and similar goals for LGBT+ Nigerians.

Human Rights Violations Documentation – We continued our monthly documentation of SOGIESC based human rights violations which play a huge role in our evidence-based activism. The goal is to continue to collect data as evidence to use for strategic litigation and campaigning. By collecting reports, we are also able to provide legal and psychological support to victims of violations. In our annual human rights violations report, we documented 492 cases of violations based on real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression.
Read the full report here.

Edge Emergency Response Fund – We launched the Edge Fund in October in a bid to provide an immediate response to the changing needs of LGBTQIA+ people in Nigeria on issues of violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is open for online application and applications are decided on by an independent committee made up of LGBTQIA+ persons and organizations. So far, we received over 300 applications and approved funds for 61 applicants. 
Read more about the fund here.

Building Bridges between the Feminist and LGBT+ Movements – Our Building Bridges Project is targeted at grassroots and traditional women’s rights organisations around Nigeria, aiming to bridge the gap between these organisations and underrepresented women in Nigeria. In 2020, we successfully held three Building Bridges workshops in Abuja, Uyo and Imo states, training representatives from women’s rights groups on making advocacy programming inclusive of all women especially women on the margins like LBTQI women, women living with disabilities and female sex workers.

Annual Human Rights Symposium – As part of our annual tradition for marking Human Rights Day, we held the sixth edition of our Human Rights, Sexuality, and the Law symposium. The theme of this year’s symposium was “Moving Beyond the Clampdown on Human Rights Advocacy in Nigeria”. Although we couldn’t welcome as many guests as the previous years due to the Covid-19 social distancing regulations, the whole event was live-streamed on YouTube.
Watch the full event here.

Barr. Israel Usman delivering the keynote speech titled “Moving Beyond the Clampdown on Human Rights Advocacy in Nigeria”
Panellists – Timinepre Cole, Chioma Ogwuegbu, Ohotu Ogbeche and Ireti Bakare-Yusuf – discussing ‘Recognizing The Gender Bias in Nigeria’s Legal System’
The discussion was moderated by Arit Okpo.
Panellists – Harry Itie, Nana Nwachukwu and Matthew Blaise – discussing ‘Social Media and Human Rights Advocacy’. The discussion was moderated by Arit Okpo.

Healthcare, Wellbeing and Capacity Building

HIV Testing and Treatment – In 2020, we successfully conducted HIV testing services for 122 persons at our wellness centre (walk-in clients) and 499 persons during community outreaches targeted at key populations in different communities around Lagos. We also distributed self-test kits to interested individuals between October and December. Clients who tested positive were enrolled in our facility-based treatment or referred to other health facilities for further care.

Medication and Safer-Sex Commodities Distribution – We administered PrEP, PEP, ARVs and distributed safer sex commodities to various clients all year round. The most challenging periods for us were the lockdown period between March and May, and the 3-week period during the End SARS protests in October. However, we were able to arrange deliveries and pick-ups with our clients and ensured that access to these essential items went uninterrupted. Our wellness centre currently provides treatment for over 100 clients with a client retention rate of over 85%. A total of 3912 male condoms and 2363 water-based lubricant were distributed in 2020.

Mental Health and Therapy – Ensuring access to cost-free and stigma-free therapy for LGBTQ+ folks is considered a priority for us at TIERs. In January 2020, our in-house clinical psychologist began offering free virtual and physical therapy sessions. Throughout the year, 371 clients engaged this service with over 1200 sessions held. We also held Trans and Non-Binary group therapy sessions, with a goal of providing a sense of community and inspiring hope for persons navigating their gender identity in Nigeria through shared experiences.

Capacity Building – We identified and trained 20 volunteers to equip them with skills to act as key population community mobilizers. These volunteers were selected across the 20 Local Government Areas of Lagos and trained to identify key population hotspots in their localities and reaching them with HIV testing and prevention services. We also trained 40 volunteers on mental health first aid to enable them to identify and provide their peers with psychosocial counselling in their respective networks and communities, as well as refer them for therapy sessions with our clinical psychologist.

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Research and Knowledge Management

We commissioned a series of research projects in 2020. While some have been completed, others are still in varying stages of execution.

Conversion Practices – We conducted an in-depth online survey on Conversion Practices across Nigeria, receiving over 2000 responses and a lot of insight into these harmful practices and how prevalent they are in Nigeria. 49% of the respondents reported having survived conversion therapy. Our work on conversion practices is still ongoing and we will share more as we learn.

Ongoing Research on Intersex Experiences – We also commissioned ongoing research into intersex persons in Nigeria and how medical personnel view and treat them, including the experiences of intersex persons, their families, medical practitioners and medical students.

Research on Gender-Based Violence – We commissioned nationwide research on gender-based violence (GBV) in Nigeria. This ongoing research work will, unlike other bodies of work available on GBV in Nigeria, collect data and provide in-depth analysis on forms of GBV experienced by all women including queer women, women living with disabilities and female sex workers. The report is set to be launched this year.

COVID-19 Pandemic effects on Women, Girls and Queer persons in Nigeria – In partnership with Education as a Vaccine (EVA), we commissioned research into the effects of COVID-19 on Women & Girls in Nigeria and another into the effects of COVID-19 on Queer Persons in Nigeria.

The first report analysed the differing levels of violence faced by women before and during the lockdown, noting the increased levels of sexual violence and abuse.
Download the report here

The second report analysed the economic, medical, psychosocial, and social impacts of the pandemic and lockdown on the LGBTQIA+ community Nigeria including reduced access to health care facilities, homelessness, increased levels of anxiety and depression, and increased levels of intimate partner violence, among other effects.
Download the report here

Perception Survey on #EndSARS – We recently commissioned SilverChipFox Consulting to conduct quantitative research with 304 respondents in different states to shed light on prevailing perceptions of the #EndSARS movement. We wanted to learn how far the message of the movement went beyond social media and what the general perceptions of the events that occurred during the protests are around the country. We also wanted to gain some insight into what the next steps need to be taken.
Read the eye-opening insights from this research here.

LGBT+ Participation in the #EndSARS Protests – We polled 300 LGBT+ Nigerians to gain insight into the participation of LGBT+ persons in the nationwide #EndSARS protests. We asked about online and physical participation, financial contribution and harassment at protests. See the results below.

Advocacy and Storytelling

#AcquitThe57 Media Campaign – To form part of the #AcquitThe57 campaign, we worked with some of the victims of the wrongful arrests to tell their stories.
You can watch them here.

Untold Facts Seasons 4 and 5 – Early in 2020, we released the fourth season of Untold Facts. Untold Facts is an online talk show produced by TIERs, which aims to create and push conversations around human rights issues with a focus on sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC).
If you missed it back then, catch up here.

In December, we premiered the fifth season of the show.
Watch the full season here.

Chapter Four on WFM Radio – We premiered a Radio Talk Show early in the year on WFM 91.7, hosted by Kiki Mordi. Chapter Four is a radio programme that is focused on bringing human rights education to the average Nigerian who might not know what their rights are, how to invoke them or when they have been violated. The aim of the show is to expose Nigerians to the concepts of indivisible and inalienable constitutional human rights, social justice, fairness and equality and the human rights framework in Nigeria.
Watch the episodes on our YouTube here.

#KnowOurQueerHistory – In June, we created a campaign called #KnowOurQueerHistory with the aim of looking back at the strides the Nigerian LGBTQ+ Movement has made as a community and reflect on all the highlight and milestones worth remembering.
If you missed that, you can read it here. 

We also held a special virtual edition of Q Convos for pride month, to talk about finding friendships and community as queer people in Nigeria.

The Freedom Awards – In December, we held the second edition of our Freedom Awards Gala. The Freedom Awards were created to honour individuals, organizations, agencies or brands who are working to create an equal society free from discrimination and marginalization.

  • Here is a list of the 2020 Freedom Award winners
  • Women’s Rights of the Year – State of Emergency GBV Movement
  • The Trailblazer Award – Olumide Makanjuola
  • The Young Activist Award – Mariam Sule
  • SOGIESC Rights Activist of the Year – Matthew Blaise
  • The Allyship Award – Zikoko Magazine


 In 2021, we have already fully kicked off work, continuing our projects that defend and stand up for the rights of LGBTI people.

Some of our plans for the year include releasing a couple of documentaries that you should definitely keep an eye out for, releasing our fifth biennial survey on the social perception of LGBTQI+ people in Nigeria, policy advocacy and campaigning, facilitating more holistic Capacity Building trainings for community members and supporting the community to access adequate healthcare and legal aid.

Stay updated on our projects and programmes by following us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. You should also check out all our media projects on YouTube.

Tell your friends and folks to subscribe to our newsletter by sharing this link with them.

Finally, if you would like to support our work this year, consider making a donation to us. We rely on the support of donors and contributions from members like you to continue defending people in court, providing free healthcare, and responding to human rights violations.

All the best,
The TIERs Team