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Second Annual Jude Byrne Award Recognises Outstanding Emerging Female Leaders

Jude Byrne

We are excited to announce the recipients of the second annual Jude Byrne Emerging Female Leader Award for 2023 are Jessica Morales from Guatemala and Kira Watson from Scotland. The award is dedicated to honouring the memory of Jude Byrne – a fearless drug user activist who fought tirelessly for the rights of people who use drugs.

The award is a joint initiative from the International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD) and the International Network on Health and Hepatitis in Substance Users (INHSU) and will see each recipient complete a nine-month mentoring program with INPUD. They will also receive $10,000 USD to support the program, and a full scholarship to INHSU 2023 conference in Geneva, Switzerland this October.

INPUD Executive Director and member of the judging panel Judy Chang, stated, “The Jude Byrne Emerging Female Leader Award aims to recognise and uplift the achievements of female activists who have demonstrated exceptional commitment and dedication to addressing the health and rights of people who use drugs.

“Jessica Morales and Kira Watson truly exemplify the essence of this award. Their passion, energy and strength of commitment to the needs of their respective communities stood out among a pool of exceptionally talented applicants.”

Judy Chang, INPUD Executive Director and member of the judging panel

Jessica Morales, Guatemala

Jessica is a dedicated activist and advocate based in Guatemala City who has been actively involved in various projects focused on human rights, drug policy, and the well-being of marginalised communities. She is currently working on a Global Fund project to improve the response to HIV. Speaking of receiving the award, she commented:

Jessica Morales

My ultimate goal is to establish a community-based organisation in Guatemala that will strengthen advocacy efforts related to drug policy and the rights of people who use drugs. I firmly believe in the power of partnerships and aim to expand relationships, particularly with women’s organisations, and create a network of feminist anti-prohibitionists throughout Latin America.

Jessica Morales

Kira Watson, Scotland

Kira Watson, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, has been involved in the harm reduction area for several years as a peer educator and activist. Currently employed by a harm reduction NGO in Scotland, Kira actively engages with individuals who use drugs, providing one-on-one support. She’s also a volunteer with the Nightlife Empowerment Network (NEWNet).

I am thrilled to have been selected for this award. I am eager to learn more about policy and advocacy work from the mentors and gain new skills in community consultation and co-production. I ultimately aspire to develop a specific service for women who use drugs, inspired by the remarkable work of projects like Metzineres in Spain and Chemical Sisters in Italy.

Kira Watson

About the award

The Jude Byrne Emerging Female Leader Award received a record number of entries this year – a total of 20 from 11 countries – reflecting the growing recognition of the important role played by emerging female leaders in addressing complex human rights, drug policy and wider social challenges for people who use drugs globally.

We are thrilled to see the overwhelming response to the Award this year. It shows an increasing interest and dedication of emerging female leaders to tackle the pressing issues faced by their communities globally, to drive positive change, and to create a more inclusive and equitable future. We know Jude would be immensely proud.

Judy Chang

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