Substance abuse and gender-based violence often go hand in hand, gravely impacting  the mental, physical and emotional health of the women concerned.

Dianova’s campaign aims to emphasize this relationship as well as the importance of building on the empowerment of women as a means to bring violence and stigma to an end.

Started on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking (26 June 2019), the campaign revives on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on the 26 November. Until Human Rights Day, on 10 December, the Dianova Network will emphasize the relationship between violence against women and substance use.

Violence and Addiction

In recent decades, studies have shown how closely alcohol and other drug abuse and gender violence are related. These issues have an increasing impact on the mental, physical and emotional health of the women concerned.

The relationships between both factors are often likely to form a vicious circle: on the one hand, women’s substance use is likely to increase their risk of being victims of violence from their intimate partners, and on the other hand, substance use is a strategy to deal with violence. In addition, rates of physical and sexual violence suffered by women undergoing drug treatment are very high, ranging from 40 to 70 per cent.

The Campaign’s Flagship Video

The video features a teenage girl who sees her life spiralling out of control because of negative past experiences. Its purpose is to highlight the specific problems faced by girls and women with substance use disorders, and the importance of their empowerment as a tool to put violence and stigma to and end.

The situation

The number of women with substance use issues enrolling in treatment programmes remains very low despite the soaring prevalence of those affected. In addition, women who succeed in entering treatment programmes typically have a shorter stay than men and, after treatment completion, are more frequently exposed to relapse.

In addition to experiencing physical and mental health problems, these women often experience physical and sexual violence or have a history of violence and abuse. They also face negative or inadequate social support systems, inadequate income, unemployment, unstable housing, and involvement with the criminal justice system. On top of this, women entering treatment often find themselves in a male-centred environment, designed for and populated by men that does not address their specific needs.

Links between gender violence and addiction

  • The use of alcohol or anxiolytics is for women a way of numbing or dissociating themselves to cope with intimate partner violence. It is therefore a consequence of this violence;
  • The presence of alcohol addiction in the couple[1] leads to a higher level of intimate partner violence (alcohol affects cognitive functions and reduces the ability to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence; it can exacerbate conflict-generating family difficulties);
  • The use of illicit drugs often requires that women become involved in violent environments (physical and psychological violence, sexual blackmail);
  • The use of drugs alters consciousness, increasing risk-taking and reducing control over a given situation, which engenders sexual violence;
  • Women with substance use disorders seem to be more vulnerable, which can lead to physical, psychological or sexual threats and violence;
  • The guilt felt by mothers who use substances can be worsened by the rebukes of their abusive partners (the “bad mother” argument is often used by perpetrators);
  • Women who use drugs and experience intimate partner violence are usually more isolated, reducing their ability to seek out or receive treatment.

[1] World Health Organization : Intimate partner violence and alcohol

Why the human empowerment campaign?

Dianova believes that there is an urgent need to create more awareness among the general public, the media, decision makers and health professionals of the specific problems women face when confronted with substance use disorders, including stigma, gender-related differences, violence, and obstacles to treatment and social reintegration.  This is the reason why the campaign will endeavour to emphasize how addiction and gender are closely interconnected, through the lens of a single concept, Human Empowerment.  

General objective

The campaign’s general objective is to raise awareness of the need for change in people with substance use or other addiction disorders, to promote the use of effective treatment programmes, and to urge governments, the private sector, foundations and other stakeholders to support some of the Dianova network’s specific programmes and projects with financial aid and other contributions.

Target Audiences

  • Decision makers – institutions, governments, ministries in key positions with decision-making power to carry out changes.
  • Private foundations – related to the theme of the campaign and those who have experience with the funding of related causes.
  • Private sector – having gender equality plans at the workplace, involved and sensitized with the theme and working on the SDGs.
  • People with substance use disorders and their families – people with substance use disorders who need help and their family members who need support to accompany the former in their change process.
  • Educational community – primary and secondary schools, universities, teachers and students. Schools having developed addiction prevention programmes.


Campaign’s materials – Phase 3

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