Located about 98 km north-west of Bulawayo, the second largest city of Zimbabwe, lies the Tsholotsho growthpoint The main economic activity in Tsholotsho is farming however the soils are bad for cultivation which then deprives young people in this area of economic activity in farming. Young people with no economic activity are at risk of contracting HIV and AIDS especially Adolescent girls and young women (AGYW). Petra Sibanda (22), one of the Community based facilitators of ward 3, Kopane village in Tsholotsho, is one of the many AGYW that the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) project has positively impacted in Matabeleland North province of Zimbabwe.
Petra who became a mother at 16, believes if she had gotten the information she got through the DREAMS project earlier she would have made better choices. After falling pregnant with no immediate plans to be parents, Petra and the father of the child panicked which resulted in the father refusing to be a part of the baby’s life,
“When I got pregnant, I did not have sufficient information on how to protect myself, we were young. It was not an easy pregnancy and having to do it alone was even harder,” she said.
After giving birth to her baby girl, Petra heard about the Dreams project from the Head nurse at the clinic in her village, she quickly applied for the Community based Facilitator role and was successful.
“The DREAMS project changed my life, now I know that I have the right to protect myself from unwanted pregnancies and contracting HIV, AIDS and STIs. I have insight as to how PreP works and with access to such information I can simply say I am empowered and no one can violate me,” said bright-eyed Petra.
Every Adolescent girl and young woman dreams of a future in which they are empowered and are able to pursue their dreams. Petra dreams of becoming an Accountant one day and as a CBF, she encourages AGYW to protect themselves and be empowered to reduce the risk of contracting HIV through Health4life sessions where they have youth friendly reproductive health sessions on condom use, Prep uptake, stigma and discrimination.
The DREAMS project has changed Petra’s life. She now lives a life of purpose and inspires other AGYW in her community to live a healthy and dignified life.