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WHRIN feedback on ‘developing gender sensitive addiction programmes’ webinar

As WHRIN Vice Chair, I would like to share my experience of participation in the webinar “Developing Gender-Sensitive Addiction Programmes”.

Some background:

Dianova and the World Federation Against Drugs published an infographic that sets out what they identify as barriers to drug treatment for women and propose ways to overcome them, click here.

After publication of the infographic “The Way Forward”, on the barriers women face in accessing and adhering to treatment programmes with proposed solutions, the World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD) and Dianova organized a webinar event to participate in a follow-up on this issue. Speakers from the fields of prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and reintegration spoke to their thoughts on how to implement gender sensitive drug treatment.

So my colleagues from WHRIN and I decided to participate in the webinar hoping to contribute to concerns about the lack of reference to harm reduction in their infographic, the need for
meaningful involvement and possible ways to reinforce the importance of resilience rather than the vulnerability of women who use drugs.

I studied the webinar information and I was surprised when I didn’t see any information about harm reduction approaches, or mention of criminalization as a barrier to treatment. Of course we (WHRIN) support drug treatment if it:

  • is evidence-based
  • is gender sensitive
  • protects human rights
  • includes information about OAT and harm reduction programmes
  • is client led
  • is voluntary

Also we (WHRIN) assert that any service for women who use drugs must include meaningful involvement of women who use drugs. We of course support any positive elements in the approach of other organisations and we are ready to assist them, so we put forward several questions:

  • Are your organisations collaborating with drug user networks in developing this agenda (if not, why not?)
  • Can a clear definition of ‘treatment’ be provided, as in many countries punishment, torture and even death happens under the guise of treatment?
  • Can you provide links to any evaluations demonstrating the efficacy of drug prevention efforts?

Unfortunately we didn’t get clear answers to our questions. But it was a great experience and opportunity to be visible in such events and build connections with potentially intersecting organisations.

We support the importance of developing Gender-Sensitive Treatment Programmes. WHRIN remain willing to dialogue with any agencies concerned with overlapping focal issues and will steadfastly remind all such agencies that prohibition remains the biggest threat and barrier to health for women who use drugs and that meanwhile wholesale endorsement of ‘treatment’, however well intentioned, must be carefully and clearly defined to protect the human rights of drug treatment clients.

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