• Girls aged between 15 and 24 years are up to three times more vulnerable to HIV-Aids infection compared to their male counterparts
• Project is equipping them for the jobs while also educating vulnerable girls
The DREAMS proagramme was announced on World Aids Day 2014, and in 2015, USAID began activities in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
They include Kenya, eSwatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
USAid is the lead implementer of DREAMS in both funding and geographic reach.
Irene Makena says girls aged between ages 15 and 24 years are up to three times more vulnerable to HIV-Aids infection compared to their male counterparts.
The project targets at least 65,500 adolescent girls and young women aged 10 to 24 in Kiambu and Nairobi counties.
It has made interventions that are put together to make it comprehensive and enable the girls to learn about behaviour change and access biomedical needs.
“You find girls who are below the age of 17 years and they are orphaned, so we give them first priority. Then the others who are in continuous risk because of their behaviour, for instance, young female sex workers, so we target such girls,” she says.
Girls from poor backgrounds are also targeted, as they are likely to engage in behaviour that puts them at risk of HIV due to the hard economic times just to survive.
Makena says economic empowerment is one of the key tools the girls can get equipped with to reduce the number of girls who would want to have a man in their life to take care of their needs.
“By empowering them, they become independent and can take care of themselves without having to depend on the so-called sponsors and other men who take advantage of them,” she says.
She acknowledges women in society are faced with a number of challenges, including sexual and gender-based violence and HIV-AIDs.
The initiative empowers vulnerable adolescent girls and young women between the ages of 10 and 24 with the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy choices and remain HIV-free.
Through the partnership with Family Group Foundation, at least 400 girls have been trained in the male-dominated courses, especially in construction. These sectors, she says, are promising when it comes to economic empowerment.
Once trained, most of them get placements, while others venture into business with the tool kits they are given at the end of the training. They are then followed through to assess progress.
The girls go through the training for not more than 12 months, except for those who will not have attained what they are supposed to.
Some of those above 25 years are retained to be mentors to other girls in the programme.
Through technology, more than 75,000 girls and young women have been reached with HIV prevention messages and other support to prevent new incidences among this age group.
This has been done through technology via digital platforms like Facebook groups, WhatsApp and Instagram. These platforms came in handy especially during the Covid-19 pandemic disruptions.