Speaking on behalf of the voiceless
Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi, Lagos Community Manager
Lagos, 11 May 2015
Despite extreme poverty and glaring incidences of injustice, it is difficult to imagine a situation where the voices of vulnerable populations are not taken into consideration for public action. However, this is the case more often than not in developing countries like Nigeria and in bustling cities such as Lagos. In "The Nature of Poverty," Margaret Haswell wrote that "what might be unpleasant or personally demanding, but is not actually seen, is often ignored." This rings true for most, but one organization in Lagos, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), is defying this norm. The mission of this civil society organization is to not ignore unpleasant situations, but to advance the voice of vulnerable groups and those suffering from injustices through personal and organizational commitment.
SERAP's program is dedicated to promoting transparency and accountability, increasing the legal protection for economic and social rights, and securing respect for these rights. This Lagos-based organization has achieved success by focusing their programs on three areas: Research and Publications, Monitoring and Advocacy, and Litigation and Legal Services. Through these verticals, the organization works to promote transparency and accountability in government, and to promote, protect, and ensure respect for economic and social rights for every individual, based on Nigerian laws. The organization also promotes social and cultural rights, provides legal advice and assistance, and seeks indemnities for the victims of violations of economic and social rights. Finally, they work to educate the population about their economic and social rights, especially the most vulnerable, which includes women, workers, the poor, and children.
The monitoring and advocacy vertical actively solicits change by combining publicity, lobbying, grassroots mobilization and campaigns, and demanding accountability from the government with respect to economic and social rights violations and non-enforcement of anti-corruption laws and standards. In 2007, due to the lack of access to affordable and quality healthcare for millions of Nigerians, SERAP launched a public petition campaign on access to healthcare for poor women and children, which has received extensive media coverage and significant public support. Through its various focus areas, SERAP champions the cause of poor and vulnerable groups at a national scale, using their expertise to amplify their voices and bring their plight to the fore.
Photo: The Advocacy Project