The Dianova Network operates in 11 countries across Europe and the Americas,developing innovative programs and projects in the fields of education, youth, addiction treatment and prevention, and in the areas of social and community development. The issue of women is at the heart of Dianova policies: the network is strongly committed to the empowerment of women through its engagement against all forms of discrimination and it considers that promoting an equal accessto educationfor women and girls, particularly in rural areas, can be a driver for cultural change and community development.
Women and addiction in relation to development
On the occasion of the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the world drug problem (UNGASS 2016) to be held in New Yorkfrom 19 to 21 April 2016, the Dianova network would like share some thoughts on the relationship between women, addiction and development. Women’s rights and gender equality are often underrepresented in discussions on the global drug problem.
According to data provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows that men are globally those most affected by the drug use or drug trafficking. This is the reason for which the role of women as actors or victims is underestimated, not sufficiently investigated, and even considered as a minor issue.
There is increasing evidence that in most developed countries the proportion of women using drugs is much higher than expected. In addition, the consequences of substance abuse on health mostly affect vulnerable women who are more prone to unwanted pregnancies, difficult deliveries, and child abuse.
Empowering women through education and training
Most of the women who are the victims of drug trafficking stem from low-income families with high levels of domestic violence, alcohol and drug dependence and deaths due to substance abuse.
Evidence shows that most of the women involved in drug trafficking, more particularly in Latin America, are victims of domestic violence and prostitution.
Access to education has been identified as the best way to address the root causes, breaking the cycle of poverty and exploitation. For this reason, efforts to achieve basic education for women and girls should be supported on an ongoing basis.
It is also necessary to ensure basic education on public health issues, sexual and reproductive health, and maternal health, and to develop prevention programs on substance abuse and drug-related diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS.
Prevention and elimination of violence against women
Substance abuse is a major cause of violence against women. In Myanmar empirical evidence suggests that the closer women get to drug use, the more vulnerable they become to physical and sexual violence, exploitation and psychological abuse. In addition, about About 6 out of every 10 Mexican migrant women are abused or victims of some other form of sexual violence, when in contact with drug traffickers.
Information, education, prevention measures implemented locally and community support can promote a culture change likely to achieve a vision towards gender equality, valuing the contribution of women to family, community and society.
Recommendations and key factors
In this regard Dianova presents the following key recommendations to the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women of the United Nations:
- Promote research on women’s issues and their relations to addiction and development to try and establish a more up-to-date picture of their relationships and face the arising challenges.
- Special attention must be given to the public health problem posed by women’s substance abuse issues and their consequences: unwanted pregnancies, repercussions of drug abuse during pregnancy, newborn health concerns and potential child abuse.
- Discrimination against women with addiction problems must be fought and treatment opportunities and social reintegration services must be developed.
- We must advocate for equal access to treatment for all, facilitate women’s access to recovery programs and develop gender-oriented treatment programs, more likely to meet the needs of women, with or without depending children.
- Alternative solutions should be promoted by providing vulnerable women with education and training opportunities likely to contribute to reducing the number of women involved in drug trafficking due to their lack of job opportunities, education or because they were abused.
- Provide treatment and educational services as an alternative for people sentenced for drug offenses or for satisfying basic needs. It is essential to put an end to the imprisonment of people who have been convicted solely for drug use