W4W: Women for Women Study Tour

Hands-On Experience: Ukrainian professionals meet their Viennese counterparts  while visiting  service facilities for  people who use drugs

In the context of a UNODC project implemented in Ukraine, UNODC headquarters hosted a study tour in Vienna on "Gender-sensitive HIV programmes for highly vulnerable women and girls in Ukraine" from 27 February to 2 March 2012.

A delegation composed of representatives from non-governmental organisations and state institutions visited local service providers who address specifically  the needs women who use drugs.  The visit included both an overview of interventions offered by civil society organisations as well as those offered by the city of Vienna.

The visiting professionals are active stakeholders in a UNODC project focusing on the  implementation of services for highly vulnerable women and girls in Ukraine.  In order to support the professional in the development and enhancement of existing services in Ukraine, the participants had the opportunity to  see the best practices in action here in Vienna.  The visit is meant to spark ideas and inspire implementers on how  best to implement evidence-informed interventions in the Ukrainian setting as well as to learn new approaches and processes  enabling them to reach their target groups with tailored services.

During this unprecedented learning opportunity, the participants visited several centres of the Viennese organisation "Dialog", which offers treatment, counselling and psychosocial support for drug users, including recently initiated  especially targeting specifically women.   The participants also visited a day-care centre for people who use drugs, a shelter for women victim of abuse, as well as a prison and municipal service centres for people who use drugs.

The opportunity to see gender-responsive service delivery in action was an opportunity that was described as rich  and inspiring.  The participants were astonished by the  by the range of services offered in Austria and the seamless collaboration between the different stakeholders in the response.

Participants  described it as "an orchestra  of institutions  providing the right services, to the right people, at the right time!"  There was much admiration for the referral system between the different organisations, the accessibility of substitution therapy, as well as for the good collaboration between the civil society organisations  and law enforcement.

The study tour ended with a successful feedback and a planning session at the UNODC  offices.  The conclusions of the visit were very much forward-thinking with ideas for the next steps in Ukraine. For example, participants agreed work towards the development and implementation of a comprehensive package of services for women in Ukraine.  All agreed that much is needed on the advocacy  front and that an all Ukrainian conference on women's issues should be organised.

Participants  returned to Ukraine in good spirits, full of new ideas and skills,  and most importantly eager to move their programmes forward.