US and Germany partner to empower young women in Zambia

LUSAKA – The US government’s DREAMS (determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) initiative produced 20,000 face masks, more than 4,400 packs of reusable sanitary napkins, and 4,000 cloth bags on demand and for the purchase by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

GIZ placed the order through the German-funded association “Strengthening Girls’ Rights!” programme, which aims to ensure that young Zambians are better able to protect themselves against HIV, teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence. Made by the young women of the DREAMS initiative, the nearly 30,000 fabric products were distributed along with COVID-19 support kits for adolescents and young people, which also contained sanitizers, soap and information about health.

Supported by the U.S. 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 by putting the focus on financial education and economic empowerment of Zambia’s most vulnerable adolescent girls. and young women. DREAMS also addresses the widespread challenge of female students missing school due to lack of affordable menstrual hygiene products.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government had equipped 40 DREAMS centers in five provinces with sewing machines and supplies and trained young women in the program to make and sell affordable, reusable menstrual pads in their communities. In response to COVID-19, women have adapted their sewing skills to make and sell the cloth masks both within their communities and to others.

A total of 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 also received PPE, hygiene products and health information material. On November 18, 250 adolescent girls and young women registered with the DREAMS initiative completed the 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 funding to the GIZ Strengthening Girls’ Rights! COVID-19 program, 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. Additionally, GIZ wanted to ensure that the funds would flow back to the community and contribute to the economic empowerment of young women in Zambia. In the cooperatives initiated by the DREAMS initiative, they have found the right partner. The GIZ referral generated income of over ZMW 850,000, which went directly to the young women engaged by DREAMS. Among other things, this income has strengthened their ability to invest in savings groups, pay school fees, support themselves and their families’ basic needs, 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 more than $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.

GIZ strengthens girls’ rights! The program is active in 6 districts in three provinces of Zambia. To learn more, visit: Tackling the ‘triple threat’ of HIV, teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence (giz.de).

Mara R. Wilmoth