Over the past month, we’ve been highlighting some of the amazing work Students for Sensible Drug Policy members are doing all over the world as part of our efforts to raise money for the International Activities Fund. This fund will help SSDP’s international chapters and activists who often struggle to gain access to the same resources our members in the United States have. Thanks to the help of our supporters, we are thrilled to announce that we have exceeded our initial fundraising goal of $10,000! We’ve decided to raise the bar to $20,000, and are hoping you can help us reach that by the end of the day today. We are currently only $4,000 away from meeting this extended goal! Can you help us close the gap today with a gift of any amount that’s meaningful to you?
In case you missed any of the stories we shared:
Juana Boateng ‘16 shared what inspired her to start the first youth group dedicated to fighting inhumane drug policies in Ghana.
Marisa Morales ‘16 talked about the violence and stigma faced by her and her fellow SSDP members in México.
Panagiotis Sevris ‘17 and Jessica Steinberg ‘17 showed how SSDP is making inroads at the UN by discussing some of their takeaways from a CND intersessional meeting.
And finally, Aaron Minsoo Kang ‘18 explained what young people in the Philippines are doing to fight back against violent, oppressive drug policies.
With an international network that spans over 30 countries across all habitable continents, it was hard to single out just a few amazing stories to share. So today, we’d like to share some shorter stories from three more SSDP rockstars who we didn’t get a chance to talk about this month. From Nigeria to Ireland, these young activists have found a community in SSDP that has allowed them to fight back against repressive drug policies that threaten the futures of their peers. With your support, we can help them achieve their goals and make this year the most impressive period of global SSDP activism to date.
Odunola Oladejo ‘17, SSDP Nigeria, SSDP Board of Directors
Being a passionate lover of human rights, liberty, justice, and peaceful coexistence has made it a smooth ride for me in my journey as an SSDP member in Nigeria. SSDP is a network dedicated to ending the War on Drugs and prioritizes the rights, health, and wellbeing of individuals. It was a dream come true for me to work with like-minded teammates in promoting and facilitating honest conversations about drug use, safe consumption facilities, and reduction of drug-related harms.
Drug control policies are not producing intended results in Nigeria. Due to unfavorable drug policies, persons who actively use drugs and persons in recovery are victimized and condemned. Their rights as individuals are not respected, and discrimination is common. The Nigerian government’s attitude towards drug use has resulted in cases of many persons awaiting trial for non-violent drug offenses, inadequate funding of safe consumption facilities to cater to persons in recovery, and non-implementation of good drug policy reforms. There is still a high rate of mass incarceration, drug-related violence, insecurity, corruption, and public health risks. The recent ban on the ‘sweet sweet’ codeine syrup by Nigeria’s Ministry of Health has done more harm than good as drug users are switching to unknown and unhealthy dangerous drugs as alternatives. No harm reduction techniques are provided for them. As mentioned in the report released by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, “the current attitude on stigmatizing drugs is hindering effective policy making, the government should be talking about ‘harm reduction’ rather than criminalization.” This supports the idea that good measures and treatment facilities should be provided for persons who use drugs and those with substance use disorders. There is a need to promote sensible drug policies at both local and national levels in Nigeria in order to reduce harms.
My teammates and I in SSDP Nigeria are working towards ensuring that the Nigerian government supports people who use drugs by mapping out strategies that would promote their well-being and safety. To do that, we need the support of our fellow drug policy reformers. It is not easy to raise money in Nigeria due to our severe economic recession, and it has been hard to find support among our own peers. Please help us build a bright future for Nigeria, to the benefit of all.
Ailish Brennan ‘17, University College Dublin
Setting up a chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at University College Dublin was not something I planned on doing for most of my first year of college. Now, over a year later, I’ve established my own chapter despite the many bureaucratic hoops I was forced to jump through along the way. Throughout the process, I’ve developed invaluable life experience that I can utilize after obtaining my degree in political science next May. The biggest opportunity that SSDP has given me was an invitation to attend the 61st Session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Spending a week at the United Nations in Vienna talking to policymakers, influencers, and so many other incredibly inspiring people from around the world doing fantastic work with groups like MAPS left me very motivated. I’ve spent the months since CND annoying my friends at every opportunity by sharing my ideas for future drug policy initiatives.
While my knowledge and passion for drug policy reform and harm reduction have come quite easily, my ability to successfully run a chapter at my university did not come quite as easily. Learning to talk about my ideas to the relevant people on campus in order to gain their support has been a steep learning curve, and organizing a group of people in order to most efficiently achieve our goal is a skill I’ve had to quickly develop. But these are skills I would not have developed if I never got involved with SSDP. It has led me to develop an understanding of what structures need to be put in place to successfully run an advocacy campaign.
Our chapter at UCD is relatively new but we have already achieved a number of things both on and off campus. We have organized talks about drug policy on campus and successfully campaigned for the Students Union to supply reagent testing kits to students free of charge. Next year, we will focus on reaching a wider college population through harm reduction education workshops as well as building the next generation of drug policy reformers to take over the chapter once I graduate. On the national level, the situation in Ireland is promising. We are still in what has become a drawn-out and well-documented period of change in Ireland as we emerge from our conservative past. While the Catholic Church’s influence in Ireland has waned, the conservative culture in Irish politics still remains prevalent and makes substantial social change difficult. There is an increasing call for decriminalisation of substances for personal use among people from all political and social backgrounds, and the impending opening of our first safe injection facility is a very positive, tangible step in the right direction. However, the ruling parties are still reluctant to legislate on medical cannabis, an issue which has been in the public eye in recent years following the very public campaign by Vera Twomey, a young mother seeking medical cannabis for her young daughter who suffers from severe seizures. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in Ireland to change attitudes around drugs and ensure policymakers are committed to a health-based approach to drug use. With the help of the SSDP network and its supporters, I am highly confident that we will achieve this vision.
Teresa Provin ‘17, SSDP Austria
I joined SSDP last year in October via the Psychedelic Society Vienna. From the very beginning, I felt a sense of greatness and excitement. A group of awesome people who advocate for a more sensible drug policy? It felt like it was exactly what I was looking for without even knowing I had been searching. Vienna is a sleeping city. There is a drug testing organization called Checkit! and they are doing great harm reduction work, but besides that and medical cannabis activism, there seems to be little going on in the drug activist scene. SSDP gets things done, which is why it feels so special to be a part of this movement. When we are not sure how to do certain projects, I think it is because no one has ever done them before in Vienna. Fortunately, there are other SSDP chapters in other countries who help us and guide us.
Being part of SSDP Austria is both chaotic and exhausting. It feels like we do a million things: we study the Just Say Know Peer Education curriculum, organize events and rallies, do street art, speak at conferences, attend UN meetings, and explore new harm reduction approaches. We make mistakes and we struggle. It is not perfect, but it’s us. I love working with SSDP so much because I am convinced we fill an important role in both the political and social realm. I feel that we actively create a better world for us and others, a world that we actually want to live in. SSDP is so much more than just an activist group fighting for more sensible drug policies. It is about vision, great ideas, and empathy. For me, being part of SSDP means learning how to demand your space in a world that so often seems to overlook young people. Please help us support this vision!