Thousands of voices joined together in song as MHRP partners in Mbeya City, Tanzania, hosted the first ever DREAMS program graduation, where 1,804 adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) celebrated their completion of the core DREAMS training.
The DREAMS initiative is funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and implemented through the Henry Jackson Foundation Military Research International (HJFMRI) and local partners in Africa. DREAMS aims to help young women become Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe through education, vocational training and other evidence-based interventions.
At the Mbeya graduation, City Council District Commissioner Hon. Paul Ntinyika congratulated the women during his commencement speech and announced that they will have a location to open their shop at the Machinga Area, a local market. “The government is proud of the work you are doing,” he told the graduates.
Dr. William Kafura, the TACAIDS national DREAMS coordinator, also commended the graduates and recognized the great work they are doing in the community to ensure a generation of AIDS-free girls. He noted that Mbeya was the best preforming region in the county.
The graduation ceremony was preceded by a two-day series of events. On the first day, the DREAMS beneficiaries together with Commissioner Ntinyika and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Tulia Ackson, cleaned five market centers in the council.
During the second day, the AGYW listened to educational presentations on topics such as gender-based violence, reproductive health and entrepreneurial/funding opportunities. They also had lunch with Hon. Mariam Mtunguja, the Mbeya Regional Administrative Secretary, where they shared their stories, achievements and challenges as young members of the community and self-employed entrepreneurs. During this lunch, Secretary Mtunguja promised the DREAMS beneficiaries that her office will ensure they receive an interest-free loan (with a minimum of Fifty Million Tshs, approx. $20,000 USD) to add to their business capital.
In May 2016, HJFMRI launched the DREAMS program in two councils in the Mbeya region, one in Mbeya City and one in Kyela DC. Both sites work with community level Civil Society Organization (CSO) partners. In Mbeya City, the CSO is KIHUMBE and in Kyela DC the CSO is Tumaini Community Services Organization. DREAMS also has a strong network of health care facilities – 10 in Mbeya City and 14 in Kyela DC. In the 2021 fiscal year, DREAMS will extend to a third location in Mbarali DC.
Since launch, the DREAMS program has reached 22,103 AGYW and has 241 DREAMS ambassadors. The program offers various methods of family planning and teaches girls various entrepreneurial skills. Focus areas include electronic technician training, tailoring, hair dressing, soap making, tie-dyeing and more. Beyond learning entrepreneurial skills, the AGYWs participate in money saving and economic strengthening groups. Additionally, over 3,000 AGYW have been provided with Community Health Insurance Fund (CHIF) cards, 536 AGYW have received a vocational training scholarship from Kizazi Kipya, 132 AGYW are involved with the Tulia Action Trust Fund, and over 14,000 AGWY are enrolled at DAMES and use Shujaa cards to report service encounters.
The DREAMS initiative comprises core package interventions at the community and clinical levels by providing behavioral, biomedical, and structural interventions that target AGYWs, their children, and their sexual partners. The core package interventions include condom promotion and provision; post-violence care; HIV testing and counseling; different contraceptive methods; social asset building; community mobilization and norms change; parenting and caregiver programs; socioeconomic approaches; and characterization of male sexual partners.