A significant proportion (ranging from at least 15% up to nearly half depending on country/region) of all people who use drugs in the world are women. Women who use drugs tend to be even more overlooked than their male counterparts, with related research, services, guidelines, training programs and data collection generally mainstreamed into a male context. Many women report that they feel excluded from existing harm reduction activities, especially those who are pregnant or who have children, transgender women, sex workers and incarcerated women. There is also a glaring paucity of responses addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of women who use drugs. The absence of appropriate policies and services is even more marked in global south countries, where violations of the rights of women who use drugs are common occurrences.
Women who use drugs along with members of the international harm reduction community have recognized that there is a need to establish a mechanism to focus on gender responsive harm reduction services. This groundswell led to the development of the Women and Harm Reduction International Network (WHRIN), formed in 2009. The goal of WHRIN is to improve the availability, quality, relevance and accessibility of health, social and legal services for women who use drugs. WHRIN is a network for women (and men) who are involved in harm reduction to ensure that national, regional and international implementers and other bodies have policies and programs which promote and support harm reduction services that reduce the adverse health, social, and economic consequences of drug prohibition for women.