The FEMIS project (FEMIS – Gender specific drug and alcohol abuse prevention among vulnerable women at risk) has achieved a lot in terms of capacity building and enhancing Nordic-Russian cooperation in the health sphere. The focus of the project provides a challenge– in many countries, women carry the stigma and shame associated with being a substance abuser (alcohol, illegal drugs, prescribed drugs etc.). This stigma is unfortunately effectively setting barriers for these women to search and get necessary help to stop the escalating harms of substance abuse.
Thus, to empower these women to seek help and to overcome the shame, we need professionals working in the health sphere who have updated knowledge and methods through which they can then offer the best possible help to these women and their families. Therefore, international information exchange projects like FEMIS are important – they offer opportunities for the social work professionals helping vulnerable women to get support and new know-how in how to deal with these difficult situations and how to guide these women towards fulfilling, healthy life.
Study Visits to Sweden and Finland
During the spring of 2019, two Study Visits were organized for the Experts’ Group – one took place in Helsinki, Finland, in late February and the other in Stockholm, Sweden, in early April. The focus of the Study Visits was to learn what kind of practices these countries have for supporting vulnerable women at difficult life situations. The project partners learnt from each other’s as well as similar organizations’ practical experiences regarding gender specific preventive methods for women of all age groups. For example, in Finland, organizations such as Association of Primary and Security Shelters, Maria Akatemia and Blue 0Ribbon Association – all of them doing valuable work with vulnerable women and their families. In Sweden, the Swedish Midwife Association informed the project partners on the Swedish midwife system and how the midwives work with women of all ages and are thus able to notice first signs of substance abuse or violence.
Lessons learned – sharing the good practices of social work among vulnerable women at risk of alcohol and other substance abuse
The lessons learnt were compiled into an informative brochure creating a much-needed resource for the people responsible for counseling and treating women at risk. The brochure highlights preventive measures for gender specific procedures as well as common international standards and conventions. The title of the brochure could be translated into English as “International and Regional Standard for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Dependence among Women”. This brochure will be further disseminated by our project partners in North-West Russia and in the Nordic countries where there might be a need for such resources in the Russian language.
Experts’ Group Meeting and Seminar in St. Petersburg, Russia (5-6 June 2019)
The Experts´ Group Meeting was held on 5 June 2019 as a workshop that connected the project partners with more than 20 representatives of organizations working with similar challenges to network and share good practices and support.
The good practices were shared among the participants of the seminar with more than 60 participants representing organizations from North-West Russia. The Seminar was held 6 June 2019 in the Centre for Medical Prophylactic in St. Petersburg on the topic “Gender specific drug and alcohol abuse prevention among vulnerable women at risk” with the focus on promoting the commitment to healthy lifestyle among women who have abused alcohol and drugs. For example, interesting experiences were shared from the female prisoners’ perspective and how their reintroduction to the society should be handled to prevent substance abuse and enforce healthy lifestyle choices.
To conclude, the project has offered everyone involved meaningful insights into the world of helping women in difficult life situations from both Nordic and Russian perspective and highlighted some of the most crucial issues that need to be solved. One of the key learnings was that a trust needs to be established between the vulnerable woman and the professional trying to help her.