Every year, the MacArthur Foundation awards substantial grant money to a select few nonprofit organizations for “exceptional creativity and effectiveness.” Ranging from $750,000 to $1.5 million, these donations help fund organizations that benefit disadvantaged citizens around the globe. This year, the Foundation has awarded $750,000 to Nigeria’s Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), an initiative that serves to combat the frequency of human rights abuses suffered by women in Nigeria.

Nigerian women are consistently subject to employment discrimination and denied access to educational opportunities. Denied equal status under the law, they are disproportionally impoverished and lack basic access to healthcare. Violence against women is rampant, and many investigative journalists suspect collusion among police and government officials intentionally to underreport cases of sexual assault. The problem has become so pervasive that Nigerians are demanding dozens of counseling clinics from the United Nations to help the numerous victims of these violent crimes.

However, this sizable grant is a necessary first step to address these widespread problems. Luckily, WRAPA has first-hand experience confronting controversial issues hindering women’s progress in the West African Nation. The organization continues to fight for universal marriage consent as well as a divorced woman’s right to child custody.

In addition, WRAPA is publically speaking out against the oppressive nature of Sharia Law in courts by providing first-class legal representation to women who otherwise would have been denied due process. Finally, the organization is using its grant money to respond to the Nigerians’ demand for counseling clinics. With this substantial increase in funding, WRAPA will construct a resource center to help abused women by providing temporary shelter and mental health professionals.

The nonprofit is also taking political action. According to the MacArthur Foundation, the program has garnered support from 84 government officials and local leaders to provide greater opportunities for women under Sharia Law. Although cultural changes will take longer to realize, legal equality is an essential first step for women to garner basic human rights, and a resolution to guarantee compensation from estranged fathers is in the works.

In addition, WRAPA is aggressively tackling poverty at the local level in Nigeria. The Macarthur Foundation estimates the up to 30 women per day will benefit from the program’s imitative to educate the disadvantaged. Reading lessons are provided daily, and the organization continues to connect undereducated girls to nearby public schools, yet no problem is too small. Houses are being repaired and proper cooking techniques are being taught. Anything to help these women live better lives.

More can be done, however. The recent kidnappings in the country are a horrific reminder that women also suffer from violence that accompanies political instability. WRAPA will continue to work with government officials to enact stringent punishments against violent offenders. In addition, the international community must respond to this current crisis to deter future terrorist acts targeted at Nigerian women.

Alongside Nigeria’s WRAPA, The MacArthur Foundation awarded grants to twelve other nonprofit organizations. You can find the entire list at this website.

– Sam Preston

Sources: Macfound, USA Today, Leadership