- a GBV survival /young women's rights story -

Through the DREAMS program, I gained the confidence to speak about the gender-based violence I was going through, and quit the relationship. I am now able to ensure that young women don't go through what I went through, and that they know where and when to access quality health services.

(Joyce Aduda)

"PEPFAR gives transformation"

PEPFAR Kenya gives hope and transformation through....

helping young women transform painful pasts into promising futures

The PEPFAR DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored and Safe) program implements a multi-sectoral, comprehensive package of evidence-based interventions to reduce HIV incidence in adolescent girls and young women according to age band. The core package has empowered girls to reduce their risk of HIV and violence, and enhance their individual and collective knowledge, skills, abilities, and confidence. Meaningful participation of the young women remains a core tenant of DREAMS, including collaboration around co-designing, implementation, and monitoring of the program. DREAMS mentors and ambassadors are selected by local partners based on leadership skills, interest in advocacy, and local knowledge of the community. They receive training and support that prepares them for their roles, including opportunities for professional growth. Joyce represents the many adolescent girls whose capabilities and resilience have the chance to shine when engaged and given opportunities. 

Joyce is 28-year-old young woman who received and completed her package of DREAMS services in 2017 and was excelling in her education to help her continue her success, PEPFAR paid for her university fees. Joyce graduated with high marks and returned to her community to volunteer as a data clerk and a Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Ambassador in DREAMS. Later, she was employed by the project as Ward Coordinator, coordinating DREAMS activities and service provision in her locality in Homabay County to ensure that the adolescent girls and young women under her supervision are 'fully layered' – meaning they are receiving all the intended age-banded layers of PEPFAR's support through the program.

As Ward Coordinator, Joyce is also responsible for partnering with local stakeholders, including Ministry of Health (MOH), Department of Children's Services (DCS), Local Administration officials, and parents/guardians of the young women. She currently coordinates two wards – West Kamagak and Central Kasipul - and as a paid DREAMS ambassador, Joyce has represented adolescent girls and young women in global forums on ambassadorship and DREAMS.

DREAMS guidance also encourages implementers to prepare young women for their desired future career path, and the project provides mentorship and employment opportunities for qualified young women accordingly. Joyce is a beautiful example of a mentored future health care worker; since her employment as Ward Coordinator, Joyce has reached over 3,400 other adolescent girls and young women with the DREAMS package of services, equipping them to be empowered, mentored, and safe, in some of the same impactful ways the program helped her overcome her painful past. As she recounts, "I was enrolled into the DREAMS program as a naive young girl who did not have the courage and self-esteem to negotiate for contraceptives, who had gone through gender-based violence in a relationship and did not know how and when to report... Apart from receiving different HIV preventive services through DREAMS, the mentors also took us through the different types of violences, and when and how to report them in any case we encountered GBV, as vulnerable adolescent girls who were in the project then..."

Addressing and preventing gender -based violence is a core initiative for the PEPFAR program. Through the Family Matters! Program (FMP), DREAMS reaches out to parents and caregivers for community mobilization to change harmful gender norms. The Family Matters! Program's main goal is to reduce sexual risk behavior among adolescents by giving parents/caregivers the knowledge, skills, comfort, and confidence to deliver primary prevention messages to their children and to create a protective environment. The DREAMS program also offers the Start Awareness Support Action (SASA!) program, which addresses intimate partner violence. The SASA! Initiative seeks to change community attitudes, norms, and behaviors around gender, violence, and the risk of and vulnerability to HIV infection among women. This intervention - alongside other community sensitization activities - has led to an increase in reporting gender-based violence and linkage to appropriate services.

Joyce's story is a poignant example of PEPFAR's impact on mitigating the effects of, increasing reporting of, and reducing incidences of gender-based violence and intimate partner violence. "Through this program," Joyce reflects, “I gained the confidence to speak about the gender-based violence I was going through, and I quit the relationship... With all the experience that I've gained as an adolescent girl and young woman, I am currently passing the baton of mentoring other vulnerable adolescent girls and young women in Homabay County... DREAMS has changed my life for the better because, through my work, I am now able to ensure that young women don't go through what I went through, and that they know where and when to access quality health services. Thank you for having such a program in our community that transforms adolescent girls into determined, resilient, educated, empowered young women."

As PEPFAR celebrates 20 years in Kenya, we cannot ignore the impact of the DREAMS response to the specialized needs of adolescent girls and young women in Kenya. Since its launch on World AIDS Day 2014, the program has fostered greater collaboration and meaningful engagement of adolescent girls and young women like Joyce at every step, enabling them to explore their unique insights and hidden leadership qualities, and to transform vulnerability and painful pasts into promising futures.


- a pepfar Kenya story of hope -