- a young women's empowerment story -

As a teenager, I had many dreams and goals in life; I wanted to become someone in a position to uplift my community, but I had no idea how to become this person. I had not finished school and was with a baby...

Who would want this girl as a leader?

(Ruth Auma Ramogi)

"PEPFAR gives empowerment"

PEPFAR Kenya gives hope and empowerment through....

empowering young women to be leaders

DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored and Safe) is a PEPFAR program that has unleashed hidden potential in over 880,000 adolescents and young women in Kenya like Ruth who had lost hope. DREAMS interventions are not only focused on reducing new HIV infections, but they also aim to reduce other critical vulnerabilities to HIV infection like inequality, economic disparity, exclusion, gender-based violence, and perceptions on women’s empowerment. DREAMS employs a client-centered approach, with adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) always at the center and supported by a strong social support system. PEPFAR continues to ensure eligible AGYW access the core package of services that prepares them for future roles and responsibilities. As we see in Ruth’s story, mentorship and engaging AGYW mentors in the program has accelerated self-development and ignited the drive to pursue their goals and aspirations.


Ruth Auma Ramogi, a 30-year-old mother of two and a former DREAMS girl, (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) spoke recently at a gathering at Rweya Chief’s Camp where she was being installed as the Assistant Chief, Buoye Sub-Location, Kolwa East, Kisumu County. Ruth told the crowd how she has reclaimed her dreams and potential:


“As a teenager, I had many dreams and goals in life; I wanted to become someone in a position to uplift my community,” she said. “But I had no idea how to become this person.

I had not finished school and was with a baby. Who would want this girl as a leader?”


Ruth was enrolled in the PEPFAR/USAID-supported DREAMS program in 2016 as a young mother. Neither Ruth nor her husband had been taught about contraceptives or sexual and reproductive health (SRHR). She was out of school due to financial constraints and was forced into early marriage with the hope that her husband would support her to resume her education. Her husband, however, had no job and depended on his relatives to provide for his family. Ruth, therefore, felt that she would no longer be able to study or pursue her dream.

Once enrolled in DREAMS, Ruth was supported to pursue a course in social work and community development at Kisumu Institute of Community Development Training (KICD-T). She also benefitted from the DREAMS package of services targeted at girls her age, including: education on contraceptives, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), and correct condom use; financial capability training; HIV Testing Services (HTS); and Social Asset Building (SAB). The teenage mother was also supported with a monthly cash transfer of KES 4,000 to provide for her household’s needs as well as to improve her school retention.


“In the early days, my husband opposed me going back to school since the children were very young and we needed to respond to our household needs,” Ruth said about her early DREAMS journey. “My mentor, Victoria Odundo, visited us many times to try to change his perception on women’s empowerment, and he only permitted me to go back to school when my mother-in-law accepted to watch over the young ones while I attended my classes.”


Upon graduating from DREAMS in 2018, Ruth was engaged by the PEPFAR program as an AGYW mentor, where she played a critical role in creating a safe and supportive environment for 60 adolescent girls and young women to build their own supportive social networks and learn about HIV and violence prevention. She later became a community health volunteer (CHV) where she reached people with information on family planning, sexual and reproductive health, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, and women’s and children's human rights.


Ruth also received training on household economic strengthening (HES) and, in May 2021, got a job with the USAID 4TheChild program’s DREAMS Strategic Partner (Make Me Smile - Kenya) as a HES assistant. She was responsible for interventions to reduce the economic vulnerability of families living with HIV while empowering caregivers to provide the essential needs of the children in Kolwa East Ward. “Ruth supported AGYW by training them on savings and internal lending communities and empowering members to access credit and foster their socio-economic empowerment,” said Linda Odawo, the coordinator for DREAMS activities in Kolwa East Ward.


Ruth’s dream of becoming a community leader had already come true, owing to the several hats she wore to serve her community. When her mentor, Victoria, became the assistant chief for a nearby sub-location, Mayenya in 2019, it showed Ruth just how far she could go in leadership. “Ms. Odundo was that mentor I have always cherished, and through her guidance and support, I was able to finish school and take up these roles to improve the health and socio-economic situations of people in my area,” Ruth said. “So, she challenged me to continue dreaming.”


Following her numerous roles in her area, Ruth, after a competitive process, was selected out of seven applicants (three males and four females) and installed as the assistant chief for Buoye Sub-Location on 8th November 2022 to assist the area chief in administration, development, coordination, and implementation of departmental procedures, policies, and activities. “My years of experience in community work in Buoye and being a member of the Village Advisory Council - where I give inputs on community development - gave me an edge,” she said.


During her installation as assistant chief, Ruth said that through her education and experience in DREAMS, she “understands the impediments to girls’ well-being” and was looking forward to sharing them with the government and inviting actions to support AGYW in her area. “In my time as a mentor and CHV, I was also capacity-built on children’s rights and articles in the Kenyan Constitution that advocate for child safeguarding standards. With this knowledge, I can use my new post to help violence survivors to access post-violence care as well as reduce the incidences of gender-based violence in my jurisdiction,” Ruth concluded her speech.


Ruth is now a leader in her community, an ambassador of the DREAMS program, and a model and source of hope for adolescent girls and young women in her community. Through PEPFAR’s support, Ruth - like thousands of other young women in Kenya - has become a determined, resilient, empowered, AIDS-Free, mentored, and safe young woman, with the tools she needs to achieve her dreams.


- a pepfar Kenya story of hope -