Ms. Asia Ashraf's Profile

Ms. Asia Ashraf holds Bachelor’s in Applied Psychology, Chemistry, and Zoology (2001) and Master’s in Applied Psychology (2003), from Punjab University. Starting as an intern psychologist with Sunny Trust International, Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre, Islamabad in 2003, she rose to become its Director Rehabilitation and Head, Psychology Department. Her responsibilities include management, program implementation and monitoring, and supervision related to treatment and rehabilitation of persons with substance use disorders. She has undertaken numerous professional trainings and is a national trainer for the Colombo Plan Drug Advisory Program.

Her yearlong stay in the U.S. under Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship (2015-2016) helped her avail some extraordinary opportunities including her keynote address at the UN Informal Interactive Stakeholder Consultation preparatory to the UNGA Special Session on World Drug Problem, held in New York on February 10, 2016. She was also a resource person in international drug conferences/ forums in Mexico and Vienna. The fellowship helped increase her knowledge of addiction treatment, rehabilitation and prevention services, besides learning new counseling techniques. She also learned about setting up separate treatment and rehabilitation for female drug users and community coalition model – powerful data-driven community-based approach to address the colossal issue of drug abuse confronting Pakistan.


Sakoongah: A Female-friendly Women’s Substance Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center 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 12 years, we frequently came across desperate/ dejected family looking for discreet treatment for their female using members. In at least two cases, 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, learned 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 – from conceptualization and its actualization. While land acquisition of designing of congenial separate premises are afoot, I took upon myself to work on the technical and professional side in keeping with our social and cultural needs. The long journey also happened to take me to the U.S. as a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow. This paper seeks to discuss the challenges and constraints involved in providing the intended services to female drug users in Pakistan and how we seek to address these.

Ms. Asia Ashraf
Head of Psychology Department and Director
Sunny Trust International, Islamabad

Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow
Virginia Commonwealth university




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