Mutual support groups among women who use drugs in a community context as a comprehensive and affordable strategy to reduce inequalities
Background: The pandemic context revealed greater asymmetries and made more visible the multiple forms of violence experienced by women and non-binary people who use drugs, namely sex workers, users with different ages, homeless, migrants and/or racialized, less qualified, unemployed and with children. These women are still impacted by the war on drugs in addition to health factors such as living with HIV, HCV or being recurrently exposed to STIs. Other women, still, were or are deprived of liberty and all are victims of gender-based violence. GAMEM and MUSA are two peer-led mutual support groups promoted by GAT/MANAS Portugal and CASO, respectively.
Method: Through two different peer led mutual support groups of women using drugs and surviving to multiple vulnerabilities an action-research has been developed through mixed methods. The data was collected using questionnaires to the participants and focus groups in a community context,
Results: It has been translated into the implementation of gender equality policies, the elimination of violence against women and the participation of communities in health promotion, strengthening the abilities and literacy of the participants, and contributing to the visibility of the collective of women who use drugs.
Conclusion: Peer led mutual support groups contribute to neutralize multiple violence and structural oppression, emerging as a response from community-based organizations that push for collective agendas, namely on the need of safer spaces for women and non-binary people using drugs, advocating towards the integration of gender-based violence interventions in innovative harm reduction services.