August 11, 2021
The latest entry in the Protecting Global Gains series, Flexible programming gives young women in Rwanda the tools they need to get through COVID-19, describes how PEPFAR’s DREAMS partnership has sustained—and adapted—critical lifelines for adolescent girls and young women throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
For nearly six years, the public-private partnership led by PEPFAR, DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) has supported interventions to address the structural factors that place young women in Rwanda, and elsewhere, at risk for HIV, such as gender-based violence, exclusion from economic opportunities, and a lack of access to secondary school, alongside health programming. Throughout COVID-19, DREAMS Rwanda helped participants respond to the evolving economic landscape—such as the increased demand for face masks—by providing equipment and start-up materials, as well as mentorship support.
Because DREAMS was set up to provide comprehensive support using multiple channels, the programs were able to adapt creatively to the lockdowns and social distancing requirements of COVID-19. Some of these adaptations, especially the use of digital platforms to keep in touch with participants, will have value well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, the DREAMS model—where mentors help participants learn self-confidence and the skills to care for and advocate for themselves—has proven invaluable as COVID-19 has further stressed social safety nets and increased existing vulnerabilities. The program’s success highlights the importance of adaptive and client-centered services that are responsive to the unique needs of marginalized populations.
Advocates can help support young women like Violette, featured in this profile, by asking the US Congress to support the White House request to double the annual US investment in DREAMS. Visit www.protectingglobalgains.org to learn more about how to take action and follow Protecting Global Gains on social media at @hivpxresearch, @theglobalfight, @Amref_Worldwide and #ProtectingGlobalGains, and consider amplifying these stories on your own social media.