DDN May 2022 May 2022 | Page 7

LORNA : ‘ The women ’ s group I attend is quite mixed in terms of age , ethnicity and life experience . We talked early on about what being a woman means to us as individuals and I think that allowed us to be open with each other . Each woman ’ s story is different but we all share the experience of being a woman and having a woman ’ s body . I believe that those shared experiences allow us to connect better than in a mixed group .
I feel it is a more relaxed atmosphere and that conversations flow more easily without men being present . I know I feel safer , more open and less guarded than in a mixed group . I believe that such safety has been the catalyst for me being able to be more reflective , to listen to other women and to support them . It has made an enormous difference to my mental wellbeing . The group has also helped me to feel a greater sense of personal worth and self-esteem . I feel like I ’ m getting myself back and that I ’ m becoming a more whole person .’
Lorna attends HAGA Alcohol Service in Haringey
I reached out for a chat . This got us to thinking about why there isn ’ t a place for women to come together and use our collective power and voices to improve things at the front line for the women our services are here to support . So we decided to set up a women-only space , under the banner of Collective Voice , but with a broader membership ( DDN , April , page 5 ).
From the start , we ’ ve tried to come at the problem from a different angle than other crossorganisational meetings ( which in themselves are a fairly rare occurrence ). We are a time-limited group – we ’ ve collaborated to build a shared understanding of the problem , and we recognise that focussing on women ’ s issues are a small fragment of our day jobs . We are forgiving , kind and unafraid . We ’ ve tried hard to come together with a different perspective . We don ’ t come to the meetings as representatives of our organisations , or to tell each other how brilliant our organisation is . We come together as women . We share jokes and have developed a space for psychological safety . It ’ s given us an opportunity to be bolder and to focus more on the needs of women – something we ’ ve all wondered if we could have done more of in our day jobs , or , as in my case , across my career . Our aim is to improve the treatment offer for women who access drug and alcohol services , by bringing together senior women
‘ We need to ensure our services not only meet the needs of women but are attractive to women . There is so much more we can do and should do .’
with a passion to improve things . We want to ensure specialist women ’ s drug and alcohol provision is available to all women , irrespective of treatment delivery type or geography , as a right . This means access to gender-specific ( and women only ) services and spaces ; inpatient detoxification , residential treatment and community service delivery .
We know our sector is in flux , with the publication of the new drug strategy , changes in the commissioning landscape and a slew of new standards , processes and systems in development . Our group aims to influence commissioning and outcome monitoring to consider needs through the lens of sex and gender . We also aim to influence performance outcomes which OHID may be considering , to ensure they reflect women ’ s health and social care needs . We want to influence workforce development activities as well as advocating for the development of minimum standards for women ’ s services in substance misuse .
There is a risk , in a world of flux , that we end up simply rebuilding the treatment system of the past . That system did not effectively meet the needs of women . We need to create a new system of harm reduction , treatment and recovery for the future , which
‘ We can do more to listen to women ’ s experiences so we can understand better the barriers women are facing . I welcome this conversation and look forward to learning more about the things we can all do to make a difference .’
puts the needs of women at its heart . Women are central to local communities and families and are hugely influential across every domain of life . If we build a women-first or women-centric system , it will benefit everyone within it – not just women .
Basically , we are coming together to stand up for the needs of women , as distinct and separate from men . If you get the chance , please do the same .
For more information , visit https :// www . collectivevoice . org . uk / womens-alcohol-and-drugtreatment /
Karen Tyrell is executive director of culture , strategy and external affairs at Humankind , on behalf of the Women ’ s Treatment Group which includes representatives from Bristol Drugs Project , Change Grow Live , Changing Lives , Cranstoun , Humankind , Phoenix Futures , Trevi House , Turning Point , WDP , With You and Working With Everyone