The project is structured around six workpackages:
First, existing initiatives specifically targeted at (single-gender) or addressing women's needs (mixed-gender) throughout
the continuum of care in Belgium will be mapped and compared with available practices abroad (via EMCDDA best
practice portal). All alcohol and drug services in Belgium will be sent a short e-mail questionnaire to identify their services.
Next, semi-structured interviews (approx. 30) with the project coordinators of all identified organisations offering single- or
mixed gender-sensitive services will give more detailed information on the services offered. To measure to which extent
programs offer gender-sensitive services a standardized instrument (based on the literature review) will be used in the
Second, to identify good practices of gender-sensitive approaches for female substance users the international peerreviewed
literature will be reviewed. Also, the EMCDDA 'best practice' portal will be consulted as well as European
national focal points on drugs and drug addiction to monitor specific interventions for women regarding prevention,
treatment or harm reduction.
Third, female substance users' experiences and perspectives on good practices and barriers regarding alcohol and drug
prevention and treatment will be explored by means of semi-structured in-depth interviews. The research team aims to
recruit at least 60 female substance users (30 in Flanders, 10 in Brussels and 20 in Wallonia) with alcohol and/or drug
problems from specialised (women only) services, as well as non-specialised services addressing the target population and
specialised mixed-gender alcohol and drug services. After the first contacts with female substance users have been made, a
strategy of snowball sampling will be adopted as a method to reach and find so-called hidden populations.
Fourth, quantitative data for Belgium are further analyzed to assess the 'gender gap' in national population and treatment
samples. Several existing databases will be analyzed: The Belgian Health Interview survey, the school surveys in Flanders
(VAD), the Belgian branch of the Global Drug Survey, the VAD nightlife survey, the Treatment Demand Indicator (TOI)
register and UGent-data on the evaluation of alcohol treatment programs in psychiatric hospitals. Data from these sources
will be analysed, compared and integrated in a comprehensive and coherent way to estimate the extent of the 'gender
gap' in population and treatment samples in Belgium appropriately.
Fifth, the research team wants to explore experts; opinions regarding necessary services and programs for female substance
users and prerequisites for implementing these services. In 4 focus groups (one on prevention, early intervention and harm
reduction; one on treatment and continuity of care; two focus groups in Dutch, two in French) involving various
stakeholders (service providers, practitioners, service users, ... ) who are familiar with the needs and expectations of female
substance users, the challenges and obstacles will be discussed. During the focus groups, the team will use the CPS
brainstormkit as a structural method to structure the brainstorm and to formulate specific recommendations for developing
and implementing more gender sensitive approaches.
Finally, the findings will be integrated into coherent and grounded recommendations. Based on the findings from the five
work packages, conclusions will be formulated regarding the accessibility of alcohol and drug services for women a'nd the
availability ·of gender-sensitive alcohol and drug demand reduction in Belgium. Also, suggestions and recommendations
for improving the accessibility of services and making them more gender-sensitive will be proposed, primarily based on
service users' perspectives. Particular attention will be paid to prevention and harm reduction initiatives and other services
along the continuum of care which now pay little attention to female substance users' needs. Policy recommendations will
be suggested to promote 'gender sensitivity' as an important point of interest when shaping and creating services. Besides
the publication of a research report and specific (peer-reviewed) papers, the results of the GEN-STAR study will be
valorized during presentations at national and international fora, a project symposium and through web-based tools and