The Consultative Dialogue on the Impact of Drug Use from Women’s Perspective took place at Courtney Hotel in Harare. The Women’s workshop was well attended by the women from different constituencies in Harare, Marondera, the Ministry of Health and Education, and members of the media fraternity.
A total of 26 people attended the conference. They included:
- The Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network team and trustees
- School Headmasters
- Drug users
Events of the day
- Introductory message
The Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network’s Acting Board Chairperson, Pauline Nyagotsi welcomed guests and presented the Objectives of the workshop and the programme of the day. She highlighted the concept of harm reduction, the need for drug policy reform and showed direction on how policy reforms will lead to interventions which promotes human rights and uphold public health. The workshop had the following as its objectives:
- To discuss the problems faced by women due to the drug use problem.
- The problems faced by drug users as well as being a mother or wife of a drug user.
- Share an overview of the drug abuse situation in Zimbabwe
- Share the multi- dimensional effects of drug abuse like the spread of HIV/Aids, Hepatitis C and TB.
- Collectively map way forward on policy interventions towards combating drug use and trafficking in Zimbabwe.
- Background on Illicit Drugs In Zimbabwe (Director of Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network, Mr. Wilson Box)
Mr. Box identified the high unemployment rate as the major cause of drug use in Zimbabwean youths. He pointed out that drug users needed medical attention, counselling and rehabilitation not incarceration. Hence, the need for policy reforms.
- Drug users voice (drug user, network partner and Mufakose high density suburb support group on drugs)
Powerful testimonies from drug users echoed how drug users need urgent attention in the country as the drug dependency was resulting in chronic illnesses such as sugar diabetes.
- Women’s Experiences- Group work
Women were divided into two groups and these are the challenges they identified
- Youths are using drugs without the relevant information on the drug and its implications.
- High divorce rates as some drug users resort to domestic violence after they become high
- Drug users feel discriminated and threatened by the current laws , hence, end up not opening up on their drug problem.
- The employment system does not accept anyone with a criminal record accrued from drug use or with a history of drug use
- Female drug users end up engaging in sex work at a tender age
- Families or mothers of drug users become victims of name labelling
- Valuables are stolen from home and the community
- Religious institutions demonise drug users
- Failure to reach to our children and advise them on the dangers of drug use
- Subject to poverty as drug users tend to be more of consumers and less productive
- Drug users are deprived of their social and health services especially in prisons.
- Female offenders tend to receive heavier penalties as compared to the male counterparts.
- Mothers have to bear all the child’s failures
- Early marriages, unwanted pregnancies, exposure to opportunistic infections which in turn becomes the mother’s burden
- Women indulge in supplying drugs and it makes it difficult to reprimand your children since they view you as the source.
- Those on chronic illnesses end up abandoning their medication and develop drug resistance
- Drug use is a cost on the mother as they end up losing money in forms of fines
- Plenary Session
The plenary session concluded the discussions and yielded action points on harm reduction and policy reform on drugs in Zimbabwe.
The key points from the plenary session were:
- Need to treat drug users as patients
- Need for programs and support groups since everyone is affected by the drug problem.
- Need for advocacy programs in schools and communities
- Government should reintroduce recreational facilities as a source of entertainment
- Society needs to view the drug problem as a health hazard not a social problem
- Need to integrate health education pertaining to drugs in the health system
- Law enforcement agents should be involved in harm reduction and desist in receiving bribes
- Drug Policy in Zimbabwe should not criminalize users but support then through public health initiatives.
- Avoid punishing drug users whilst the traffickers are free.
- Need for more awareness campaign programs amongst the youth
- Need to set up rehabilitation centers to help bridge the gap between policy and practice.
- To be taken as a health care service by providing awareness and treatment.
The conference was a major success with all stakeholders reiterating the importance of policy reform and harm reduction interventions. It emerged that Zimbabwean women are suffering more due to the problem of drug use and thusthe need to push for a workable drug policy to curb the negative consequences of drug abuse.