International Women's Day: women who use drugs are awarding friendly police officers

Partners and supporters of the campaign “Women against Violence” continue the tradition of awarding friendly police officers on the occasion of the International Women’s Day.

8 March 2016

Partners and supporters of the campaign “Women against Violence” continue the tradition of awarding friendly police officers on the occasion of the International Women’s Day. This year, 11 organizations from 18 cities in 6 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) decided to join the initiative and give awards to law enforcement representatives who had cooperated over the past year to address problems of women who use drugs. Certificates of gratitude were granted to a total of 46 friendly police officers from the region. Below are comments by the activists who participated in the initiative.

"These local police officers have been working with our shelter for many years. They bring women from our group who end up at their local police stations back to us. The police are always on our side and treat our women without stigma and discrimination. They also support us when we have problems with neighbors", Irena Ermolaeva, Head of “Asteria” (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan), an organization that unites women who use drugs, explains the reasons for awarding the certificates of gratitude to law enforcement representatives.

"In the framework of the EHRN campaign "Women against violence", representatives of Kharkiv’s Department for Drug-Related Crimes were awarded certificates of gratitude [...] Knowing that I’m an NGO staff member still enrolled in the OST program and a person living with HIV, they never even for a moment let me feel as if I’m different from any other normal person. The friendly atmosphere at the DRC Department and an offer to sit down and talk over a cup of coffee got me a little confused as my "rich experience" of drug use (23 years) and of communicating with former police does not allow me to relax at a subconscious level [...] But in general, I had a feeling that this communication proved to be enjoyable. I'd like to believe that in the future we will come to a situation when the police dealing with drug dependent persons won’t plant drugs on them and will refer them to healthcare programs for OST or rehabilitation. I'd like to believe it... ", says Oksana Ivantsova, a representative of "Athena”, an initiative group of women who use drugs from Kharkov, Ukraine.

 "We believe that interaction between police officers and harm reduction programs implemented by NGOs, including the International Charitable Foundation "Vertical", facilitates the transition from persecution of women who use drugs to their support by the police, which is an important prerequisite for improving society, controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS and improving the quality of life for women. The recipe for success is simple. First, cooperation and joint actions; second, the police help and  understand", says Julia Dorokhova of the Charitable Foundation "Vertical", coordinator of the campaign "Women Against Violence" in Kyiv, Ukraine.

"Olga Zinchenko supports our work with young girls. Olga works closely with us; she is competent, tolerant and beautiful at the same time", says Natalya Dotsenko, Head of the Charitable Foundation "Spodivannya" from Zaporozhye, Ukraine, granting a certificate of gratitude to police captain Olga Zinchenko.

«We would like to thank the Head of the Directorate for Drug Related Crimes, police colonel Edesh Rakhimzhanov, for his help, assistance and support of HIV prevention activities", says Natalia Rudokvas, a representative of the organization "Answer" from Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan.

The number of police officers awarded this year is nine times higher than in the previous year, when the initiative of granting certificates of gratitude started. Then five police officers were referred to as “friendly” by three partners from Ukraine, Moldova and Kazakhstan.

 “The increased number of police officers being given awards shows that we were on the right track in achieving the goal of the 2nd year of the campaign – to build a dialogue and partnership between women who use drugs and representatives of law enforcement”, says campaign coordinator Erika Matuizaite.

The International Women's Day also marks the end of the 2nd year of the campaign “Women against Violence ” and the beginning of its third and final year. The second year of the campaign was focused on establishing partnerships and building a dialogue between women who use drugs, decision makers and other stakeholders in order to create effective solutions for combating police violence against women who use drugs. The main objective of the third year is to monitor implementation of the commitments to combat violence against women who use drugs made by police and other government stakeholders. Key activities of the third year will include the following initiatives: continuing to strengthen partnerships between women who use drugs and law enforcement representatives; developing joint action plans to combat police violence against women who use drugs; fulfilling the commitments made by police and other government stakeholders with regard to combating violence against women who use drugs; rewarding police officers and government stakeholders who take leadership in ending violence and fulfill their commitments.

The overall goal of the campaign “Women against Violence” is to stop police violence against women who use drugs in EECA. The campaign was launched on March 8, 2014 by EHRN in partnership with 18 organizations from 17 cities of 7 countries of EECA. Its 1st year was run under the slogan “Break the silence” and it was dedicated to raising awareness of law enforcement representatives and decision makers about police violence against women who use drugs by mobilizing women and building their capacity to document and communicate police violence.