On March 26-28, the USAID HIV Reform in Action (HIVRiA) Project in concert with the NGO “Hope and Trust” conducted an Advocacy School dedicated to representation and participation of the community in sustainable response to HIV.20 leaders of the community of females who use drugs (FWUD) have successfully completed the Advocacy School and received certificates of completion. The HIVRiA Project works to address stigma and discrimination against PLWH and key populations (PWID, sex workers and LGBTI) and focuses on gender aspects of HIV programming. Therefore, the training was conducted to build capacity and leadership skills of the community of females who use drugs.
“The target audience of the Advocacy School were women who use drugs since this population, apart from drug use, experience a number of other problems, including lack of access to health services, especially reproductive health services, and high level of gender violence. All this makes this population even more vulnerable to HIV infection. In fact, to remove the barriers, we decided to propose a training that would cover a range of issues related to community interests and to documenting human rights violations, ” said Mariya Makovetska, Senior Advisor: Outreach and Partnerships of the HIVRiA Project.
During the training, the participants were introduced to the Global Fund guidelines for the HIV response and discussed how communities could currently be involved. During the discussion, a list of community problems that could be solved through existing coordinating mechanisms at the local and national level was made. In addition, the participants analyzed the human rights concept, learned how to document violations, how external and internal stigma affected the community as a whole, and what human rights advocacy options existed to strengthen the capacity of the FWUD community in Ukraine.
The school trainers were the representatives of partner non-governmental organizations – “Hope and Trust” and LGBT Center “Our World”.
“Mobilizing and strengthening the capacity of females who use drugs occur at several levels. First, it is support of female activists – women who, despite multiple discrimination, severe stigma and (commonly) violence, have turned to social activism and who help other women. Second, it is influence of female activists on gender-sensitive decision-making at the local level. Third, it is raised voice of women both in the community of people who use drugs and in the society. If we are talking about gender-sensitive services under harm reduction programs or gender-based violence combat, we must involve key populations, ” said Halyna Korniienko, Advocacy Manager of the NGO “Hope and Trust”.
“As an LGBT human rights advocate, I can see more stigma and stigma-generated discrimination against people who use drugs than against other discriminated populations. I tremendously admire and respect women who decided to become leaders and change public opinion about drug use. I really appreciate the experience when you train and gain self-assurance, determination and aspiration for change. Equal rights solidarity is the only effective lever of influence that I can see today. I hope that our cooperation will continue, “said the expert of the LGBT Center “Our World”.