Human Empowerment Campaign

Dianova aims to promote a holistic perspective of addiction treatment based on individual empowerment, and raise awareness about the relationship between addiction and gender

On the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, on June 26, Dianova launches the ‘Human Empowerment’ campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness about the need to promote holistic addiction treatment services based on people’s empowerment and individual development, and integrating a gender perspective.

The “Human Empowerment” Concept

Dianova believes that girls’ and women’s rights are fundamental human rights and that there is an urgent need to create more awareness 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.  

Through this unique concept, the campaign will be developed in three phases, under the following themes:

Recovering one’s Capacity to Choose, Embracing Life

Everyone can be affected by addiction problems. Regardless of gender, race or social status, no one can say they are immune to substance use disorders or behavioural addictions such as compulsive gambling. And they can lead to a world of pain. Although using drugs is, at least at the beginning, a personal choice, addiction never is. As science defines it: “addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences”.

Achieving Empowerment through Life Skills

We must address the specific needs of all people in treatment and post-treatment programmes, including women and LGBTI people. For instance, women respond better to treatment and have better compliance when included in psychotherapy and group counselling. Sexual education and family planning, as well as diagnosis of psychiatric comorbidity, eating disorders and trauma related to sexual abuse and violence are priority issues that need to be integrated in the treatment agenda for women.

Empowerment: regaining control over one’s life

Empowering women and girls across all programmes and advocacy efforts will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large. With stepped-up action on gender equality, every part of the world can make progress towards sustainable development by 2030, leaving no one behind.

The Situation

The prejudices and social stigma associated with female drug users delay the treatment process. On the one hand, they are pointed out for being drug users or having an addiction problem and, on the other for not fulfilling the gender-related roles that are expected from them (double stigma). When they try and face such situations, stigma affects them to a greater extent. In addition, women and LGBTI people with substance use disorders are often invisible. Addiction treatment programmes are generally grounded in an androcentric perspective that does not meet everyone’s needs, which engenders obstacles to treatment: women account for only one out of five people in treatment for drug use.

Women Face Unique Issues

When it comes to substance use and addiction, women face unique issues that are mostly influenced by sex (differences based on biology) and gender (differences based on culturally-defined roles for men and women). Research studies on substance use and addiction disorders have found that:

  • Women describe reasons for using drugs that are different than men’s, including weight control due to the strong pressure of beauty standards, fighting exhaustion due to double working hours, (care for others, including children and the elderly), generating a more important consumption of legal drugs.
  • Most women use substances differently from men, e. g. consuming smaller amounts of certain substances for less time before becoming dependent.
  • Women who attend treatment programmes may experience a greater sense of discomfort and lack of motivation because their needs are not fully taken into account; in addition, they are more likely to relapse after treatment completion due to a lack of social support, economic problems or because they are unable to break the circle of violence.
  • Women who use drugs may also experience more physical effects on their heart and blood vessels.
  • Women may be more likely to go to the emergency room or die from an overdose or other substance-related consequences due to the invisibilization of women’s problematic use of drugs: detected long after the onset of drug use, they also take a longer time to be treated.
  • Women who are victims of gender-based violence are at increased risk of substance use.
  • Divorce, loss of child custody, or the death of a partner or child can trigger women’s substance use or other mental health disorders, due to gender socialization and the social expectations that women should be in charge of people’s care.

Call for Gender-sensitive Programmes

The issues of women’s barriers to accessing addiction treatment programmes, the stigma associated with their condition and their need of specific treatment modalities have been widely unrecognized and underfunded. There is an urgent need to rethink addiction treatment programmes and implement services that effectively and comprehensively address the complex needs of women with substance use disorders and their children. In addition, we believe that one should give the highest priority in sensitizing the public opinion and health professionals into providing women with the same standards of treatment men are entitled to.

Dianova advocates the implementation of specific modalities, including integrated treatment programmes that offer a wide range of services including addiction treatment, parenting counselling, service linkages, housing, legal assistance, and job and vocational training. In addition, these programmes should be culturally-adapted and provide modalities such as separate programmes for women, acceptance of children and attention to pregnant women.

Impact on Sustainable Development Goals

SDG 5: Achieve Gender Equality & Empower all Women and Girls : Achieving gender equality by 2030 requires urgent action to eliminate the many root causes of discrimination that still curtail women’s rights in private and public spheres.

SDG 3: Ensure Healthy Lives & Promote Wellbeing for All at all Ages: SDG 3 targets 4 and 5 focus on the promotion of mental health and well-being and on strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol.

SDG 10: Reduce Inequality Within and Among Countries: For women and girls, gender inequalities have consequences for income as well as other fundamental needs, such as health and education. It is essential to develop cross-sector analysis of how gender inequalities interact with other potential vulnerability areas, such as those related to age, functional diversity, ethnicity, migration, economic status, etc.

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.

Creative Concept

Dianova International and member organizations participating in the campaign will use a series of 17 images that include the Human Empowerment and Dianova logos, along with dedicated messages. These images will be disseminated on our web site and social medias throughout the remainder of the year.

This action will be divided into two main blocks:

  1. Block one: raising awareness
  2. Block two: encouraging action


Campaign’s materials

Images and campaign messages to use on social media

Please download the “social media kit” to access the campaign’s various messages

Download campaign’s HD images in various languages

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Join the #HumanEmpowerment campaign

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