LUSAKA –The U.S. government’s Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe (DREAMS) initiative has produced 20,000 face masks, over 4,400 packs of reusable sanitary pads, and 4,000 cloth bags upon request and for procurement by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
GIZ placed the order through the German-funded “Strengthening Girls’ Rights!” program, which aims to ensure that young people in Zambia are better able to protect themselves against HIV, teenage pregnancy, and gender-based violence. Produced by the young women in the DREAMS initiative, the nearly 30,000 cloth-based products were distributed with COVID-19 support kits for adolescents and young people, which also contained sanitizers, soap, and health information.
Supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the DREAMS initiative serves as a model for sustainable programs through its focus on financial literacy and economic empowerment for Zambia’s most vulnerable adolescent girls and young women. DREAMS also addresses the widespread challenge of female students missing school due to the lack of affordable menstrual hygiene products.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government had equipped 40 DREAMS centers across five provinces with sewing machines and supplies and trained the young women in the program to make and sell affordable, reusable menstrual pads in their communities. In response to COVID-19, the women adapted their sewing skills to craft and sell the cloth masks both within their communities and to others.
In total, 4,450 support kits were handed over to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health for distribution in schools and youth-friendly health facilities in six districts. Sixty schools and 62 health facilities were also supported with PPEs, hygiene products, and health information materials. On November 18, 250 adolescent girls and young women enrolled in the DREAMS initiative completed delivery of this order, while the first kits were delivered on December 1 in commemoration of World AIDS Day.
When the German government provided additional funds to the GIZ Strengthening Girls’ Rights! program to combat COVID-19, the program decided to use the funds to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on young people’s access to HIV and sexual and reproductive health information and services. Moreover, GIZ wanted to make sure that funds would flow back into the community and contribute to the economic empowerment of young women in Zambia. In the cooperatives initiated by the DREAMS initiative, they found the right partner. The GIZ consignment generated a revenue of more than ZMW 850,000, all of which went directly to the young women engaged through DREAMS. Among other things, this revenue bolstered their ability to invest in savings groups, pay school fees, provide basic needs for themselves and their families, and supplement income lost due to the pandemic.
The DREAMS initiative is active in 14 districts across seven provinces in Zambia, and in 2021 the U.S. government has invested over $30 million in DREAMS programs across the country. To learn more, visit https://zm.usembassy.gov/our-relationship/pepfar/dreams-zambia and USAID.gov/global-health-dreams.
The GIZ Strengthening Girls’ Rights! program is active in 6 districts across three provinces in Zambia. To learn more, visit: Addressing the ‘triple threat’ of HIV, teenage pregnancies and gender based violence (giz.de).