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ID: HR23-131
Presenting author: Julie-Anne Mac Donnell

Presenting author biography:

Julie has worked in the field of Harm Reduction in South Africa since 2012. She consults to several different organizations and has a special interest in Women who use Drugs, particularly the women living in remote and rural regions of South Africa.

Women in Chains - The Tears and the Fears: Gender Based Violence amongst South African women who use drugs. (WHRIN Good practice Series)

Julie-Anne Mac Donnell
In South Africa the rates of femicide and gender-based violence (GBV) are the highest in the world. Currently, 20-25% of new HIV infections in
young women are related to GBV and IPV (Intimate partner violence). Women who use drugs (WUD) are even more at-risk when considering socio-economic status, living conditions and punitive drug policies. In rural communities this situation is further exacerbated by a lack of women’s shelters and safe spaces; as well as the moral and religious bias placed on impoverished communities.

The shortage of professionals in rural regions (social workers, psychotherapists etc..) contributes to a high prevalence of trauma and the continuing cycles of abuse. Most WUD who experience GBV do not know where to access help and fear that if they do, social services may also remove their children. Unfortunately, evidence from reported GBV cases is also frequently “lost” or “misfiled” by law enforcement resulting in perpetrators never being prosecuted.

SANPUD is a women lead organization which celebrates autonomy and challenges oppression, marginalization, and economic exclusion. In 2022 SANPUD began supplying tech equipment (Tablets) and technical capacitation to rural women. This essential support aids the Rural “Community Angels” project where community members provide emergency safe spaces for victims of GBV and assist them to document, photograph and record their cases. Thereafter, they are assisted with reporting their cases to law enforcement.

Photographs and incident reports documented by Community Angels are uploaded onto a virtual cloud – thus, in the event of police “losing” data, evidence is still saved externally for court hearings and can aid in the prosecution process.
SANPUD constantly seeks innovative and non-discriminating ways to support WUD. We also ensure representation of WUD at high level national engagements; and are now recognized internationally for awareness raising, research and GBV advocacy.