Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 31st 2015 Contents "Everywhere you go you see this phenomenon of
women not getting to treatment, or they drop out
of treatment, and if you ask them why they say they
are uncomfortable, they say, we re stigmatised and
we have no services that address our needs, " said
Nabila el-Bassel a professor at Columbia University
who studies female drug use.
May 31, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
From Page A36
Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training
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Drug use on the rise,
women most vulnerable
Sandra and Hadija at Malaika Sober House, one of the two women's centres.
infant in a
room at one
of the sober
Globally, limited research exists on female drug
"There is a huge, huge gap in knowledge about
women who use drugs everywhere," Bassel said.
"We need to stop using women as variables."
Women constitute a minority of drug users, but
they are likely under-reported and they also experience
devastating consequences of addiction: female injec-
tion drug users face higher mortality rates, higher
risks of HIV infection, and faster progression to
Female drug users are stigmatised around the world
but particularly in conservative Zanzibar, where 99
per cent of the population is Muslim.
"Women feel embarrassed, ashamed, they re dealing
with religion, culture, tradition, prostitution, rape,"
said Abdulrahman Abdullah, the general secretary of
Recovery Community Zanzibar.
Female drug users are likely to have been sexually
assaulted in the past and sexually assaulted when
they re using. Women often exchange sex for drugs,
pairing two sins that make them irredeemable in the
eyes of many of the island s residents.
"When I was using I d go to Maskani, I wouldn t
have anything, no money," Jackie said, referring to
the place where she bought drugs.
" Don t worry Jackie, they d say, I have money,
they d buy me drugs," she said recounting her con-
versation with male drug users.
Women are typically introduced to injection drugs
by a male partner with whom they often share needles.
Injection drug user rates have ballooned to 16 per
cent, and among sex workers to 12.8 per cent in the
Hadija and Sandra sat outside Malaika Sober House,
one of the island s two clinics for women. They had
just finished a 12-step meeting and the women traded
stories while smoking cigarettes.
Stretched across the door step was a woman who
periodically groaned as the pain of withdrawal rustled
This is Hadija s second time at Malaika. She relapsed
a few months ago after staying sober for more than
"We started to establish the women s programme
in 2011 and very few have sustained recovery, more
have collapsed along the way," Abdullah said of the
women s sober houses.
"Its been a good programme with very few clients."
Sandra misses her two children. It is illegal for
children to be in sober houses in Zanzibar, a barrier
for many women.
"For now, they re better off without me, especially
the youngest one," Sandra said.
Because of her baby and because in the past Jackie
was caught with heroin at the sober house, she s left
and is looking for an apartment of her own.
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