Building the financial independence of adolescent girls and young women through DREAMSJackie Kasuya · December 7, 2022
Joy is an 18-year-old mother living in Juba City, South Sudan. When she was 12 years old, she was sent to live with her uncle after being kicked out of her father’s home. Her uncle then married her off to a 20-year-old man at the age of 14. This forced Joy to drop out of school.
As an unemployed mother of two, Joy had nowhere to turn when her husband began abusing her. She refrained from confiding in anyone out of fear of retaliation from her husband, who threatened to kill her if she ever talked about how he treated her.
Joy’s ray of hope came when an out-of-school facilitator referred her to the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) program – supported by the USAID Adolescents and Children HIV Incidence Reduction, Empowerment and Virus Elimination (ACHIEVE) project. After enrolling in the program, Joy received psycho-social support through post-gender-based violence services offered at Juba Teaching Hospital One Stop Centre. This included the completion of the DREAMS foundational primary package of social asset building sessions that focused on understanding self, interactions with others and gender roles and expectations.
“I am happy now because I am spending time with my age mates, playing games like Ludo and soccer before and after the sessions,” Joy says. “It helps me to relieve my stress. My peers are like a family that I never had. Most of all, I’m happy to know about my HIV status.”
As part of the DREAMS layered services, Joy also received access to financial literacy training, HIV screening and testing, STI testing and family planning services. To build financial independence, she was referred for a long-term economic strengthening course in tailoring at Kaka Tax Vocational Centre. Following completion, she was among five trainees retained by Kaka for wage employment.
Since the inception of the DREAMS program, a total of 2,448 AGYW are active, with 1,142 having completed the foundational life skills sessions and 972 referred for multiple DREAMS secondary services.
Joy is grateful for what she gained from the program, which has significantly improved her life and that of her two children. With the salary she is earning from Kaka Tax Tailoring, she can contribute to house rent, food and school fees. Joy is also working toward buying a sewing machine to grow her business.
Joy’s story represents that of many other adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in South Sudan. Since the inception of the DREAMS program, a total of 2,448 AGYW are active, with 1,142 having completed the foundational life skills sessions and 972 referred for multiple DREAMS secondary services. Overall, 616 AGYW were trained in economic strengthening courses through the DREAMS program, which includes tailoring, beauty therapy and sandal and juice making. Joy was among 80 tailoring and beauty therapy graduates who finished the program in February 2022.
“With all that I have learned in tailoring, watch my space as I intend to stamp my mark on the South Sudan fashion world!” Joy exclaims.