She displays all the bearings of an ordinary 11-year-old. She goes to school, studies, plays with friends and returns home to her family every evening.
But Shukuru lives in an HIV-affected household. Her father is without an income and struggles to pay for her school supplies. Amid this uncertainty, at school, Shukuru has a channel to nurture her ambitions.
She takes part in the DREAMS program, which stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe. It is part of Pact’s Kizazi Kipya project, funded by PEPFAR and USAID. DREAMS is designed to help reduce adolescents’ and families’ vulnerability to HIV, improve girls’ freedom and menstrual health, and increase girls’ knowledge to prevent behavior that may harm them.
Within DREAMS, Shukuru has seized the opportunity to transform her life and others'. She is a DREAMS Ambassador, imparting knowledge and skills to her peers on sexual reproductive health and HIV and AIDS education. Being an ambassador has improved Shukuru’s self-esteem and enabled her to focus on school, learn how to avoid risky behavior and positively affect the lives of others.
“Through DREAMS, I see things differently,” she says.
Shukuru and her family also receive critical services in care, health, nutrition, education, protection, livelihoods and psychosocial well-being, all through Kizazi Kipya. Shukuru’s father has begun taking part in WORTH, Pact’s village savings and lending groups. He received a start-up kit to launch a food-vending business. With a steady income, he will be able to support his family.
Because of DREAMS, local teachers advocated for dedicated toilet space for girls who have started menstruating. The availability of water, soap and pads has helped girls stay in class during their periods.
“I am happy in school,” Shukuru says. “I am confident and empowered, able to speak out, to communicate to my fellow students, my teachers and my family.”
Photo: Shukuru (her name was changed for this story) with a teacher after receiving a new school uniform.