WACOL was established in 1997 as an independent, non-political, non-governmental, and non-profit organization; registered in 2000 as a company limited by guarantee i.e., as a charitable organization (RC: 388132) with the Corporate Affairs of Commission (CAC), Nigeria.
WACOL’s vision is a democratic society free from violence and abuse, where human rights of all in particular women and young people are recognized in law and practice. Its mission is to assist in the education, social, economic, and political development of women and young people through a wide range of services: training, research, advocacy, shelter, free legal and financial aid, intra-familial/community conflict resolution, and information and library services.
The organization works throughout Nigeria and in the West African sub-region and beyond. WACOL has established itself as a credible and committed organization whose work is well recognized beyond the shores of Nigeria.
It has since 2001 an observer status with the African Union, African commission on human rights, and is also an NGO Special Consultative Status with the United Nations approved in 2010 by ECOSOC.
WACOL is a formidable organization that can now boast of institutional capacity for sustainable work in the field of advancing human rights, gender equality, democracy, and good governance.
WACOL program and projects are wide and varying and include: Research; Advocacy for law reform to benefit the disadvantaged, including women, children, and persons with disabilities;
Capacity building on legislative advocacy for CSOs; Promoting women’s rights and access to justice under Sharia and Customary law; Legal education and awareness, including the training of paralegals; Provision of free legal aid and assistance to women and children whose human rights have been abused; Running of shelter for battered women;
Establishment and running of one-stop holistic Centre for sexual assault cases called TAMAR Sexual Assault Referral Center (TAMAR SARC); Engaging law enforcement officers- police, prison officers, prosecutors on human rights and the rule of law; Promoting domestic implementation and monitoring of international human rights law and access to justice; Training of administrators of justice, including judges, magistrates, sharia and customary courts officials; Campaign to eliminate discrimination and violence against women, Campaign to end human trafficking, forced labor and unsafe migration; Integrated assistance to women’s victims of State torture and violent conflicts;
Moot Courts on human rights and women’s rights; Curriculum development and building local jurisprudence for the teaching of gender, reproductive health and rights in universities/law faculties in Nigeria; sexual and reproductive rights advocacy, peer health education, Family life education,
Publication of legal literacy series (over 20 on different subjects) and other simplified and reader-friendly public enlightenment books and IEC’s numbering over 30 on Electoral Law, Constitution, Civic Education, trafficking, rape, women’s rights, children’s rights, widows rights, family life/sex education, etc.
Publication of training manuals on advocacy, gender, election monitoring, international human rights law, law enforcement, and human rights; popular participation in constitution-making, training manual for the judiciary, training health practitioners on gender-based violence, engaging traditional and religious leaders, etc. WACOL deploys the media and new technologies to promote awareness on human rights, gender equality, and violence against women and girls (VAWG)/SGBV.
Specifically, on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), it has undertaken a number of actions in the last twenty years, including research, advocacy, legal aid, and assistance to victims/survivors of human trafficking, shelter, public education, and awareness of the ugly phenomenon of SGBV to break in particular the culture of silence and impunity surrounding SGBV. WACOL has contributed to the passage of laws protecting women, girls, and persons with disabilities from violence. Notably, it advocated and got the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law of Enugu State passed in 2019.
WACOL was also part of advocacy and network of gender-focused organizations that also worked on and succeeded in getting the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, 2015 passed by the National Assembly and subsequently signed into law by the then President Goodluck Jonathan.
Free Legal Aid: WACOL is considered as the number one legal aid service provider for women and girls in Nigeria providing assistance to about 2,000 on an annual basis with over 4,000 drop-ins yearly. We register an average of 20 cases daily at our legal clinic.
This is evidence-based and well documented. From 1998 to date approximately 62,000 women and girls have accessed the free legal aid and assistance services.
We provide free legal services for women and young people in our offices across the country. We also ran community law centers in Katsina, Ebonyi, and Anambra States, including Mobile Legal Clinics in Bayelsa, Benue, Enugu, and Rivers States. The services available under the legal aid scheme include court representation, crisis intervention, and counseling, information about victim’s rights, shelter, home visits and other psycho-social support for victims, referrals for other needs. These cases are on different human rights abuses, including denial of inheritance, assault/battery, child abuse/neglect, harassment/intimidation, sexual assault/rape, family maintenance, and other forms of violence against women and young people.
In a bid to extend its successful women’s rights program to the northern parts of Nigeria, WACOL embarked on legal aid and access to justice project in Northern Nigeria to ensure an Islamic legal environment that takes into account the human rights of women. The project has so far covered thirteen northern states of Nigeria including Abuja. An important aspect of this project was the establishment of a rapid response mobile legal clinic and the training of community paralegals, which contributed to the extensive reach of the project activities.
Tamar Sexual Assault and Referral Centre (Tamar SARC) is a one-stop shop registered subsidiary initiative of WACOL ((RC 1539768) that started in 2014 with the support of Justice for All (J4A) funded by DfID, UK. WACOL Tamar SARC focuses its work to provide rapid response and provision of integrated services (Medical, Legal, Counselling, Shelter, Financial and Psycho-social support) for victims and survivors of sexual violence in Nigeria.
SHELTER: WACOL started running a safe house in 1998 and in 2002, it built its own ultra-modern shelter that continues to provide safe spaces for women and girls in need, especially victims of VAWG/SGBV/HP, including survivors of human trafficking.
#GIRL’s Will: This is an initiative of WACOL that was launched during the celebration of the 2020 International Day of Girl Child amidst COVID- 19 pandemic. GIRL’s Will is a program designed to promote girls’ right to protection and participation. It aims at amplifying the voices and rights of girls everywhere in Nigeria. Importantly, the initiative through targeted actions will work to equip girls with the right skills and knowledge to defend their human rights. It will target the greater role and participation of girls in decisions affecting their survival and development, advancing their inclusion in science education and technological advancement. Follow us on #GIRLSWILL
WEEP Not Fund- This Women Economic Empowerment Project- WEEP not funds was started about a decade ago by the founder of WACOL Prof. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo (OON) to focus on mitigating economic hardship suffered by widows and to bring succor to widows and other rural women living in extreme poverty by supporting income-generating projects, including as a cooperative that will provide livelihood sustainability.
WACOL Zonal Women Political Empowerment – The offices were established in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, then MDGs Office at the President and the Imo State Government through the Ministry of Women Affairs that donated office space. The zonal office functions as a political information clearinghouse for women in the southeast geo-political zone. It serves as a political resource Centre and has been providing much-needed support for women to seek elective positions and other information on political participation.
WACOL networks: WACOL is a member of many coalitions, including being a foundation member of LACVAW, Gender Technical Unit (GTU), Gender and Constitutional Advocacy Network (GECORN), and the Network of Sexual Assault Referral Centres.
WACOL pioneered and still coordinates the following networks with WACOL office serving as Secretariat: Victims Support Club (VISUC); Survivors Watch, Widows Economic Empowerment program (WEEP- Not);
Nigerian NGO CEDAW Coalition, South East Women’s Network; West African Women’s Rights Coalition (WAWORC);
Network for Women Living Under Religious and Customary Laws (NPWRIS); South East Human Rights Situation Room, Partners for Peace Advocacy and Good Governance; Media against Sexual Violence,
Male champions for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Movement (GEM).
The WACOL founder/ED, a Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Prof. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo (OON) serves as the Chairperson of the National Network of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC Network) with the Rule of Law and Anti- Corruption (RoLAC) Program of the British Council as Secretariat. She is also the National Coordinator of GECORN, the Convener of Human Rights Situation Room. WACOL ED has formally served globally as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking (2008-2014), Member, Board of Trustees of Victims of Trafficking Fund (2013-2016) representing Africa. She’s currently in the UN Secretary General’s Civil Society Advisory Board on Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (2019-2021).