In Rwanda, HIV prevalence is highest among the youth, ages 20-24. Among female sex workers (FSW) in this age group, HIV prevalence is estimated to be 45.8 percent. It is against this background that the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS Free, Mentored and Safe) was launched to address structural drivers of HIV among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW), including poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence, and a lack of education, in five districts.

Global Communities/USAID Twiyubake is implementing DREAMS activities in two of the five districts – Kicukiro and Nyarugenge – with DUHAMIC ADRI and YWCA Rwanda, respectively, as the local implementers. Following the launch of DREAMS in both districts, field officers worked closely with local authorities, community health workers (CHWs) and Friends of the Family volunteers (Inshuti z’Umuryango), community-based child and family protection volunteers, to identify most vulnerable girls and young women aged 10-24 years.

Drocella, a widow and mother of six children, is the Inshuti z’Umuryango Coordinator for Tetero cell, Nyarugenge district. She actively supported the identification of eligible girls for the DREAMS initiative in her cell. As an advocate of child rights, Drocella believes DREAMS could never have come at a better time than now. "This program is much needed in this cell as there are two villages, which are known to have large numbers of young female sex workers and teen mums. Most of those teen mums even abandoned their children. Unfortunately, the older girls and women sell the younger ones in prostitution activities. A lot of young girls involved in prostitution activities used to be housekeepers. You can see the girls sitting in bars and along the roads at night. The older ones want to get out of prostitution, but the younger ones seem not to know that they are in trouble. They think that they have a very nice life compared to other girls. Female sex workers are the most difficult to reach, as they are hidden, working at night," she explained.

"During a beneficiary enrollment event on March 15th, 2018, at Tetero cell, we enrolled 16 teen mums and 24 other girls assumed to be FSWs based on information we received from their peers. Drocella and the cell office helped us mobilize the girls for enrollment. Only one girl out of the 24 assumed to be FSWs admitted to be a FSW – others just indicated they were jobless on their enrollment form," explained Leonie Nyiramahoro, DREAMS Field Officer at DUHAMIC ADRI.

At the end of the enrollment event, the Executive Secretary of Tetero cell, congratulated the girls for enrolling in the program, and assured them they would be provided with skills to protect themselves from HIV and other health conditions. He encouraged them to be mindful of and follow all the teaching they will receive. "This program will enable you to develop and pursue goals for your future, and you should be disciplined and take all sessions and activities seriously. Remember that AIDS remains the leading cause of death among adolescent girls, and all efforts to address this problem are so critically important, he added.

Leonie Nyiramahoro, DREAMS Field Officer at DUHAMIC ADRI, also enrolled young girls aged 10-14 who had dropped out of school in Nyabugogo cell, Nyarugenge district. Solange, a 12 year-old girl, is grateful to be part of the DREAMS initiative. She left school in primary 4 (P4), two years ago, and hopes that the program will help her to get back to school. She does not know her parents. She grew up with an aunt. Two years ago, her aunt dropped her at the house of the women she lives now, and never came back. For two years, she has not been to school. The woman she lives with now is very poor. She sells charcoal on the roadside, but promised she would never send her away.

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