2024 Jude Byrne Emerging Female Leader Award Recipients Announced

The International Network of Health and Hepatitis in Substance Users (INHSU) and the International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD) have announced the 2024 recipients of the Jude Byrne Emerging Female Leader Award – Alla Bessonova from Kyrgyzstan and Sarah Whipple from the United States.

Now in its third year, this prestigious award is designed to foster expertise and resilience in the next generation of women who use drugs.

It honours the memory of legendary drug user activist, mother, former INPUD Chair, and former INHSU Board Member Jude Byrne and includes a nine-month mentorship program with INPUD, $10,000 USD,  and a full scholarship to attend the INHSU 2024 conference, which will take place from 8-11 October 2024 in Athens, Greece.

This year, the award received over 26 nominations from 15 countries, with two recipients being chosen after an extensive judging process involving community representatives. Congratulations to the two recipients:

Alla Bessonova, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Alla is a committed activist and narcofeminist from Kyrgyzstan (Central Asia), actively involved in gender-oriented projects focusing on women’s rights in drug policy and improving their quality of life. She is a Master’s student at the Faculty of Social Psychology of Bishkek Humanitarian University.

For three years, Alla represented Kyrgyzstan in the Eurasian Women’s AIDS Network (EWNA) and is now a member of the Secretariat. She currently coordinates the Expert Feminist Council at Eurasian Network of People Who Use Drugs (ENPUD), where she will continue to support and strengthen narcofeminism. Alla said:

“Kyrgyzstan and other EECA countries face increasingly oppressive governments that restrict civil society, especially in harm reduction and advocacy. With this award and mentorship, I hope to strengthen women-led networks and activists facing violence and human rights violations. The mentorship will also support me in conducting a gender assessment of HIV services for women who use drugs in Kyrgyzstan, building community capacity, and fostering partnerships to support human rights defenders and enhance community-led programs.”

Sarah Whipple, Sacramento, California, USA

Sarah Whipple is an outreach worker for a needle exchange and a community organiser for a sex worker rights organisation in Sacramento, USA.

Her work has included organising sex worker memorials and decriminalisation rallies, developing injection alternative kits with a national pipe distributor, running one of the most followed harm reduction education accounts on social media, and volunteering at community projects such as an autonomous encampment and nearby rural needle exchange. Sarah said:

“I deeply admire Jude Byrne’s legacy of fearless drug user activism and I am so excited to learn from mentors in the international harm reduction movement. One of my primary goals for the award is to develop a group that provides harm reduction resources to Sacramento’s LGBTQIA+ community. I also hope to develop skills in non-hierarchical leadership and resilience in the face of anti-harm reduction backlash.”

Special Recognition Award, Angela McBride, South Africa

Additionally, the judges have awarded a Special Recognition Award to Angela McBride, Executive Director of The South African Network of People Who Use Drugs (SANPUD), who will be receiving one-on-one mentoring sessions with a senior female global advocate to provide practical support and advice on specific challenges. Angela said:  

“I’ve had the privilege of working for a community of people who use drugs in South Africa, who have faced some harsh realities but who have chosen to stand up and say no. No to hate, no to discrimination, no to violations, and yes to change, to harm reduction. Together we’ve formed a powerful community, still growing, but a lot stronger and more aware than we were.

“I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and unbelievably thankful to the magnificent humans who I work alongside and have helped me be me, someone who supports her community with the love, kindness and compassion they deserve,” said Angie. “I am super excited to learn more about how I can become a better guide to my community and how to better navigate a forever changing and quite intimidating global environment.”

“The dedication and passion shown by all nominees was outstanding, and as always, this was a very tough decision,” explained Judy Chang, INPUD Executive Director. “The selected recipients exemplify the spirit and legacy of Jude Byrne, and we look forward to seeing their impact on the global movement.”

The recipients will be presenting more about their achievements at the INHSU 2024 conference, taking place in Athens, Greece from 8-11 October.

“We are thrilled to support the Jude Byrne Emerging Female Leader Award for the third year,” said Emma Day, INHSU Executive Director. “It’s increasingly important to provide a space for women who use drugs to lead and innovate. We are also excited to welcome the awardees to INHSU 2024 in Athens on a full scholarship, where they will present their work and engage with the broader community.”

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