By Khetsiwe Dlamini, Communications Officer, Social and Behavior Change
“Now, I am a fully-fledged businesswoman,” smiles 26-year-old Simphiwe Dlamini as she organized fruits in her produce stall in kaLanga, an inkhundla, or a subdivision smaller than a district, in eastern Eswatini.
It wasn’t always this way.
The single mother of two children failed school twice, the last time as a result of an unplanned pregnancy. She knows all too well the harsh realities of life as a struggling single parent with no job to support her children, and no tools to achieve her dream of starting a business.
Until Project DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) knocked on her door.
The PEPFAR-funded project and PSI Eswatini-implemented project support Dlamini, in addition to three thousand adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) who are in and out of school, with the information and tools, like PrEP, contraceptive services and gender-based violence (GBV) reporting, to achieve their dreams.
For girls like Dlamini, DREAMS is a game-changer.
Since Oct. 2020, PSI Eswatini’s DREAMS has enrolled 9,563 AGYW and reached 10,408 AGYW with HIV prevention messaging and services. The project works across three constituencies: Lugongolweni, Mafutseni, and Kukhanyeni – all areas with high pregnancy and HIV incidence rates among AGYW.
Adolescent girls and young women are most vulnerable to HIV infections and unplanned pregnancies because of barriers to accessing SRH services. Thus, the DREAMS program is committed to upscaling SRH interventions as an important pillar in the welfare of AGYW. DREAMS is also committed to strengthening socio-economic interventions to ensure self-reliant and economically independent AGYW that can make informed decisions about their lives
“During our sessions, the DREAMS team not only took us through HIV prevention and family planning methods but also provide mobile clinics for ease of service access. To top it all, the nurses and service providers in these mobile clinics are young and friendly” says Dlamini.
Most HIV prevention interventions aimed at AGYW have been effective, however, AGYW continues to face unemployment and financial instability, which increases their risk for HIV and unplanned pregnancies. The high unemployment rate among youth in Eswatini contributes to the rise in crime, sexual violence, and abuse affecting women and children.
DREAMS aims to respond.
“As we continued with our ongoing sessions, DREAMS introduced a business and entrepreneurial mentorship initiative to help us build and maintain a sustainable source of income. Now I am knowledgeable on financial savings and business savvy” adds Dlamini.
DREAM’s economic strengthening interventions and resource mobilization efforts equip AGYW with the tools to generate income and build the confidence to run their own business. For example, DREAMS helps facilitate savings clubs whereby AGYW can create savings groups to support one another in building an income or saving as an individual.
To date, Dlamini and her saving groups have saved $141USD, with participants contributing $3USD, sometimes more.
“Siyongile sibo-girl baseLungongolweni,” says Dlamini. “We have saved as girls from Lugongolweni constituency.”
With the savings, Dlamini started her produce businesses and steadily grew a fish and chips outlet. The profits – anywhere from $23-29USD per day –sustains herself and her two children.
All girls should stay in the DREAMS program — the benefits, Dlamini says, go well beyond the training.
She plans to grow her business and employ other AGYW in her community to both reduce their vulnerability and mentor them as they too open their businesses. “The name of my business will likely be “Emaphupho ayafezeka” or Dreams Come True,” she says.
Donor: THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENT’S EMERGENCY PLAN FOR AIDS RELIEF (PEPFAR)