DREAMS stands for Determined, Resilient, Educated, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe. The program targets adolescent girls and young women aged 9-24 years as they represent a highly vulnerable group with respect to new HIV infections and teenage pregnancies. DREAMS addresses their challenges, such as: a lack of awareness of their HIV status, interrupted treatment of HIV, reduced uptake of early infant diagnosis and increased Mother to Child Transmission (MTCT) of HIV.
In 2021 Make Me Smile became the technical lead partner for the DREAMS project in the USAID4TheChild consortium, responsible for coordinating the DREAMS project in the whole country, while directly supporting 16,085 adolescent girls and young women in eight wards across three sub-counties of Kisumu themselves.
Sudi is one of our DREAMS Girls and this is her story
Sudi grew up in Kolwa East and is currently 22 years old. She has always been a very bright and outstanding girl. Although Sudi loved to learn and to explore new things, at school she struggled. After the death of her father, her mother could no longer afford it financially to support her in school. Sudi remembers lacking basic requirements such as textbooks and school uniforms. As she could not pay her school fees, she missed several classes. As a result, other pupils were often making fun of her. Due to the lack of resources she dropped her education in form four, short before graduation. She recalls this being the beginning of her troubles: “Orphaned in childhood, harassed by in-laws, abused by my husband – life has shown me everything that probably gives shivers to any woman.” Sudi shares that she had lost hope and faith, days passed, but she could not move on. Being unproductive and sitting idle at home made her feel even more worthless and a burden to her family.
Dreams of a DREAMS Girl
She joined DREAMS in 2021 and opportunities opened up for her to interact with other girls and young women at the safe space. In January 2022 Sudi was additionally enrolled at the Craft Center for the tailoring programme. She expresses her gratitude for being able to learn new skills: “Joining the Angola Craft Centre has enabled me to gain skills and knowledge to compete in the job market. Fashion has been among my biggest interests and I cannot think of a better craft to study. It is not easy for a girl to have a dream. I’m one of the few girls in our village who got this opportunity. My mother pinned her hopes on me and now I see myself making her, next to myself of course, the happiest woman.” Sudi sees herself starting her own fashion store to give adolescent girls and young women the opportunity to learn new skills, as she has been given through Make Me Smile.
A holistic concept that allows for dreams to come true
Sudi narrates that being enrolled at the Craft Center, being trained and now graduating has changed a lot in her life. Apart from learning tailoring and dressmaking, she took a course on basic computer skills offered at the Make Me Smile Future Hub. Her desire to learn, helped her to get involved in the Craft Center and Sudi recently graduated and received two certificates; one in tailoring and another in basic computer skills. Additionally she has gained knowledge on reproductive health through the sessions she attended. “I have learnt about contraception methods and prevention of an unplanned pregnancy as I commit myself to pursue my dreams.”
The voice of Josephine Aoko, youth advocate for reproductive health
“The DREAMS programme has given adolescent girls and young women a chance to be self-reliant through vocational training like tailoring. With these skills women are able to compete fairly in the job market hence strengthening the society economically. Through these programs young women are empowered and shown a life in which women can support each other and stand on their own. Additionally they learn about ways to reduce teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections and diseases. It makes me happy to see how young women can now commit themselves to pursuing their dreams.”
(Josephine Aoko, Youth advocate of the reproductive health program, MMS-K)
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