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Sakoongah: A female-friendly women’s substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation centre in Islamabad

Despite 1.5 million female drug users in Pakistan, drug abuse is typically considered a male problem. Drug treatment services are highly deficient, covering just 30,000 persons and basically male-oriented. Thus lack of female-friendly services and women’s reluctance to access drug treatment due to social stigma, family reputation, marital risks and cultural constraints makes them doubly suffer in silence or be exploited by quacks, faith-healers, etc. Pakistan acutely lacks expertise and understanding of the special needs of female drug users. Despite being part of an exclusively male treatment and rehabilitation facility (Sunny Trust International) since last 25 years, we frequently came across desperate/dejected family looking for discreet treatment for their female using members. In at least three cases, three such families with their teenage daughter simple barged into our facility and forced us to somehow improvise separate in-house treatment and rehabilitation arrangements. We took on these challenges, learnt from the experience of saving lives of chronic female cases, and decided to address the need for female substance use through setting up a separate female-friendly treatment and rehabilitation facility. We chose to name it “Sakoongah”: A house of Peace and Tranquility which women substance users could access at ease and feel at home. We have been working at different levels since the idea took birth to conceptualization and its actualization. While land acquisition of designing of congenial separate premises are afoot, we are providing out-patient counseling to female patients and regularly organizing seminars, walks, focused group discussions with different stakeholders of community to mainstream female drug abuse issue.

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