Finally, the girls can DREAM!

Tafadzwa Mabaya (16) is a data entry clerk at the Zimbabwe Health Interventions (ZHI) offices in Bulawayo. However, her story was not always this rosy. Back in 2016, Tafadzwa got married to a man from the apostolic sect. The marriage did not last as the man abusive and harbored polygamous intentions.

By Michael Gwarisa

She returned to stay with her mother in Marange where she was working. That is when she saw girls under the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS Free Mentored (DREAMS) program seated under a tree at a nearby school.

I did not start off where I am today. I started off as a DREAMS beneficiary after i had left my marriage. One day the DREAMS people approached me and explained the DREAMS program to me and I got enrolled even tough at first, I did not want to enroll because it looked like a very long process,” said Tafadzwa.

“When they explained everything, I got screened and got enrolled. From then, I started appreciating the DREMS program because I really got help from it. If I had not enrolled, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I got out of a very abusive marriage and the man wanted polygamy. I was very much at risk of contracting HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).”

After enrolling with the DREAMS program, Tafadzwa was initiated on a number of health and empowerment programs.

“As of now, I can tell you that my three best friends are Pre-Exposure Prophylaxes (PrEP), Family Planning (FP) and STI Screening then the other friends will come afterwards. In the DREAMS program, I also became a club facilitator in Marange and also with my skills of being a public speaker, some organisations started working with me,” said Tafadzwa.

Some of the organisations that have since engaged her include Child Line, Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT), Population Solutions for Health (PSH) and others. Tafadzwa is now studying towards a Degree in Development Studies with the Catholic University. Her Motto is, the Sky is not the limit, but just a view so keep on going and keep on keeping on.

A number of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYWs) have been assisted by the DREAMS program. The ZHI has now launched the DREAMS-RISE program which is part of the USAID funded program from the US$123 million they have disbursed to the ZHI.

DREAMS-RISE stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS Free Mentored and Safe – Re-Ignite, Innovate, Sustain and Empower it is being implanted by ZHI in partnership with Family Health International (FHI 360), Family Support Trust (FST), and Umzingwane AIDS Network (UAN) also implements the five-year USAID-funded DREAMS-RISE program (October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2026) to help reduce new HIV infections amongst adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) aged nine to 24.

The RISE Program remains a strategic platform for reaching priority populations with a comprehensive HIV prevention package. The DREAMS-RISE initiative offers the full package of DREAMS services in nine priority high HIV burden districts (Beitbridge, Bulawayo, Bulilima, Gwanda, Gweru, Insiza, Mangwe, Matobo, and Mazowe). Targeted beneficiaries include young women selling sex (YWSS), out-of-school girls aged 15 to 24 years, and gender-based violence survivors and their caregivers. In addition, comprehensive sex education programs reach both girls and boys in primary and secondary schools.

Since inception, the DREAMS-RISE has provided more than 103,000 AGYWs with HIV and sexual violence prevention services; provided almost 16,000 AGYW with economic strengthening interventions; reached more than 21,900 AGYW with sexual and reproductive health services; and provided educational support to over 3,700 vulnerable primary and secondary school AGYW.

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