Since our visit to Nigeria in June 2019 the self-advocacy group has expanded to include 19 self-advocates with Down syndrome. A decision was made to include participants from other organisations in Nigeria in the training which has led to Moyinoluwa Rainbow Foundation starting a self-advocacy group of 7 people with Down syndrome.

The group has met 21 times as well as coming together for specific advocacy activities. They have covered a broad range of subjects in their meetings, including:

  • the history of the disability movement in Nigeria;
  • how to express your feelings and opinions;
  • how to make a complaint;
  • being assertive rather than aggressive or passive;
  • understanding choices and decision making and
  • speaking up (being good at self-advocacy).

Measuring the success of the project

The Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria carried out semi-structured interviews with the self-advocates after finishing the group meetings. 

Overall there was a huge increase in understanding of advocacy and human rights for the self-advocates, although starting levels of knowledge were very low.

All of the self-advocates completing the survey were able to give a definition of what a self-advocate does and why speaking up is important to them. The answers included:

  • “Right to speak up”
  • "I speak for myself and for others"
  • “Because I know my rights”
  • "I love speaking up so it is important to speak"
  • "Because I have right to speak"

All of the self-advocates completing the survey were able to name at least 1 human right and explain how it applied to their life:

  • Right to vote – “means that I can vote for any party I want” 
  • Right to speak – “means I can exercise my right as an advocate”
  • Right to life – “because nobody should be killed” 
  • Right to education – “helps you know your future and what is right for you" 

The self-advocacy group engaged in lots of different forms of advocacy. Many had little or no experience of speaking up about anything and so the initial focus was on personal or very localised issues. For example, the group advocated to be included in deciding what lunch was provided by DSFN. Previously they had not been asked, so this was a major priority and success for them.

They then moved onto a range of other advocacy activities including:

  • Raising awareness about Down syndrome at local churches and schools;
  • Presenting at a workshop for doctors;
  • Organising a fair for government officials and families of people with Down syndrome to tell them about self-advocacy;
  • Speaking about their rights at the UN Information Centre in Lagos;
  • Creating a video about their rights and sharing it on social media;
  • Appearing on national TV to talk about their rights;
  • Deciding as a group to register for the first time to vote and voting in the 2019 election;
  • Successfully advocating for the Local Government Chairman to sign the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa and
  • Engaging in Inclusion International’s Inclusion Works programme on employment of persons with intellectual disabilities.

What's next?

We are in the early stages of a new 3-year project with funding from NORAD and IDA which will directly involve the self-advocacy group from Nigeria. Within this project we will deliver human rights training to Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria and we will support the self-advocates to participate in employment advocacy. 

It has been an absolute pleasure to see the increase in confidence of the self-advocates since the Nigeria self-advocacy project began in November 2018. We are incredibly proud of each of the self-advocates and all that they have achieved so far. We look forward to spending more time with them over the next 3 years.