ID: HR23-128
Presenting author: Thinzar Tun

Presenting author biography:

A woman leader with the dedication for WUDs in Myanmar, providing training, funds raising and developing women-friendly services for them. I respect, believe in their resilience, for being a woman, a mother, a drug user. I have 20 years of experiences on Harm Reduction as a founder of AHRN/Best Shelter.

If there is a Will, there is a way! – A peer-led women “cost-effective” service delivery in rural areas in Myanmar. (WHRIN good practice series)

Thinzar Tun, Lea Lea Cho, Yadanar Su Hlaing Phyo
“It is ok that men drink or smoke, but not ok if a woman does the same especially with using drugs!” Best Shelter client.

Significant numbers of women using drugs in Myanmar have little access to harm reduction services due to existing legislative, gender norms and political impediments. Often abandoned by their families and communities, women are in need of services targeting their specific needs.

Together with COVID, the military coup plunged the country into humanitarian crisis, adding to powerful gendered disincentives for women with ongoing need for harm reduction. In 2021, with minimal resources, the Best Shelters peer outreach team assisted women in connecting with gender aware services in Lashio, Shan-North and Panwah, Kachin State.

Best Shelter have included a strong focus on the needs of women who use drugs in their capacity building and service provision strategies, so all staff have understanding about the different needs of women and responsive. Outreach is conducted at brothels, shooting galleries and places where women who use drugs meet. Women peer ‘buddies’ provide accompanied referral, facilitating service access. Clients report feeling respected and listened to, with peers providing a unique bridge to relevant harm reduction services which include linking with GBV, family planning, SRHR and perinatal harm reduction services.

Despite the crisis context, in 2021 Best Shelter reached 194 women with 33 health education sessions, 153 referrals for HIV/STI/TB screening, OAT, SRHR, HBV screening and vaccination services, and 62 women clients received accompanied support. Women sensitive peer outreach has made a key difference in building expedient bridges with women in need. The challenges lies in the sustaining the funds though it is a "cost-effective" service delivery for WUDs. The politicians, donors, implementers - it is time for the real inclusion of women, you just need a will!