Women Speak Out: An Academic-Community Collaboration to Explore the Links Between HIV, Gender-Based Violence and Human Rights Among Women with Drug Dependence

Dr Claudia Stoicescu (Department of Social Policy and Intervention)

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Women Speak Out is an academic-community collaboration between Oxford University and the Indonesian Drug Users Network aimed at addressing HIV and gender-based violence among drug-using women in Indonesia. Over 730 women who inject drugs participated in the baseline research, making it the country’s largest study with this marginalised population. The collaboration applied a community-based participatory approach at all stages of the research process. Women with lived experience of drug use were trained and equitably engaged in grant development, study design, implementation and dissemination. Findings showed that injection drug-using women shouldered a burden of intimate partner violence up to 24 times higher than women in the general population, which exacerbated their HIV risk by over 26%. At the same time, drug-using women faced inadequate access to health and legal support services. Guided by the findings and building on the capacities gained by the women through the project, researchers and community partners secured seed funding to establish a new network of women who use drugs with representatives across 12 provinces. The initiative focuses on female empowerment, knowledge exchange and the realisation of drug-using women’s right to health. As one of a few projects globally to successfully combine rigorous research with meaningful community involvement, Women Speak Out represents a best practice model for impactful and sustainable academic-community partnership.