Born and bred in Zimbabwe, Juliet found herself on the verge of dropping out of school. She even contemplated engaging in transactional sex to help her single mother and three siblings make ends meet. After finishing ordinary level in 2016, she was unable to advance her education and did not think there was anything else she could do. Luckily in 2018, one of the DREAMS Club Facilitators reached out and recruited Juliet to become a DREAMS beneficiary. The PEPFAR-supported DREAMS or Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored and Safe Program is a comprehensive, multi-sectoral package of core interventions to address key factors that make girls and young women particularly vulnerable to HIV.
Juliet started meeting with other girls and young women from her community through her DREAMS Club group. She soon realized that she was not alone, and that her peers were facing many similar challenges. She discovered that some had dropped out of school, been sexually abused, were teen mothers, were orphans and/or had survived by engaging in transactional sex. Their resolve, coupled with discussions in the DREAMS Club about how to reset and achieve one’s life goals, motivated her to believe in her dreams again.
Being a self-starter and an intelligent leader, Juliet began volunteering to help her peers who had opted for the DREAMS Program’s Part-Time and Continued Education (PTCE) intervention with their schoolwork. She supported them to excel in mathematics, english and science. The DREAMS Program also supported Juliet to continue with her formal education. She was soon selected as a DREAMS Ambassador, representing DREAMS and giving voice to the priorities of adolescent girls and young women to diverse audiences in various local, national, and global forums.
As part of the DREAMS approach to providing evidence-based, layered services (multiple, concurrent services based on the age cohort and individual needs of a DREAMS beneficiary) to its beneficiaries to achieve intended program outcomes, Juliet was advised to enroll in the Economic Strengthening program. She completed the advanced financial literacy sessions and then enrolled in a savings club. After completing the entrepreneurship course coupled with her informal classes, she turned her tutoring services into a profitable business. Juliet now has an income that allows her to meet her and her family’s needs. She inspires girls in her community who have dropped out to pursue their education. “I realized that it is possible, and life should never be determined by past experiences”.
DREAMS is about addressing the unique circumstances that place adolescent girls and young women at disproportionate risk for HIV acquisition, while also empowering them to reach their greatest potential. In Zimbabwe, the PEPFAR DREAMS program is supporting more than 200,000 girls like Juliet to believe in themselves, pursue their goals, and help address the challenges that girls face in their communities. Juliet is a phenomenal young champion making a positive difference in the HIV response in her community, native Zimbabwe, and the world.
PEPFAR announced the DREAMS Partnership on World AIDS Day 2014 with private sector partners: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson, and ViiV Healthcare. DREAMS is implemented across 15 countries and conducted in close collaboration with partners, experts, advocates, and AGYW. Over the last four years, PEPFAR has invested nearly a billion USD dollars through DREAMS.