Right to Life

Representing different political, cultural and socio-economic contexts, both Russia and Estonia are home for the biggest HIV epidemics in CEECA – Russia is absolute number and Estonia in terms of the HIV prevalence. Women who use drugs represent the most vulnerable community – not only in terms of having the highest risk of contaminating HIV, but also from the point of view of their vulnerability to domestic violence, police abuse, denial of the access to essential health services and social support. Instead of providing support to women who use drugs in such forms as effective drug treatment, case management, vocational training and job placement, the state uses its power for policing and punishment of such women and deprival of their rights, including their parental rights.

In both Russia and Estonia, institutes of the protection of human rights of vulnerable populations are underdeveloped, while there are significant differences in factors that explain low access to and limited efficiency in using human rights instruments. However, for both countries extremely low interest to human rights violations experienced by women who use drugs among ‘mainstream’ hu-man rights and gender rights movement can be explained by extremely high stigma around drug-related issues. In this context, the central role in documenting human rights violation and analysing them through the prism of international and national legislation has to be given to women who use drugs and their ‘traditional allies’ – harm reduction programs. This is why capacity building for women’s groups and putting their stories in the international human rights discourse is a top priority of Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA).

The current project is special in the way it employs the qualitative research methods to identify and document the conventional cases of violations of rights of women who use drugs in the CEECA region. Despite the fact that for years we have been raising awareness of the issue of women´s rights in the context of drug control policies, very little has been done in terms of systematic evi-dence collection. The reports we do have either deal with just a few aspects of the problem (vulner-ability to HIV, violence etc) or are based on secondary data. Apart from coordinating the evidence collection and analysis under the project we will be supporting the community of women who use drugs in their liaison with the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), European Court of Human Rights and other international human rights mechanisms.

The long-term goal of the project is to improve the enjoyment of human rights of women from vulnerable communities and their access to health care and social protection in areas with high prevalence of drug use and HIV infection.


  1. To develop skills of women from vulnerable communities (women who use drugs and women living with HIV) to document and analyse typical human rights violations and structural violence as well as build cooperation with local and national governments;
  2. To initiate and sustain regular communication and cooperation on the cases of human rights violations and structural violence with national and local governments and in-country human and legal rights protection mechanisms;
  3. To build an alliance with international human rights, gender, and harm reduction organisations in order to strategically work with the UN and Council of Europe human rights protection mechanisms.

Countries of implementation: Estonia, Russia

Timeline: November 2017 – November 2018

Budget: 50 000 USD

Project donor: Levi Strauss Foundation

Project report