On a Monday afternoon, a group of teenage girls gather in one of the classes. 23-year-old Philomen Ganineza, a peer educator and resident of Nyakabanda 1 sector, Nyarugenge district talks to the group about sexual reproductive health, and condoms, how to use condoms correctly and consistently.
Ganineza is among the female peer educators that have benefited from the ‘DREAMS’ project. “Before the training, I lacked skills to effectively communicate, and I had limited knowledge on Sexual reproductive Health and HIV prevention. I did not know that the rate of teenage pregnancy was very high in Rwanda,” she says, adding that after the training her approach to educating other young girls has improved.
24-year- old Anita Uzamukunda is a another female peer educator whose experience has changed as a result of the training provided by SFH Rwanda through the ‘DREAMS’ project. The training equipped her with skills and knowledge on HIV prevention, correct and consistent use of condoms. “Before the training I couldn’t touch a condom,” she said. As a peer educator, more girls in her village trust her and are able to open up on topics of sexual reproductive health and HIV prevention.
Under a dusty sky, a group of youth including adolescent girls and young women are involved in different activities. They have gathered in small groups attentively listening to the peer educators talking about HIV prevention while their male counterparts are busy playing basketball.
Located in the suburban areas of Kigali City in Nyarugenge district, Rafiki Club is famous for youth friendly services. The Club offers social amenities to the youth from the neighboring sectors and villages. With support from the Society for Family Health (SFH) Rwanda, a number of adolescent girls and youth frequenting the club is steadily increasing thanks to ‘DREAMS’ a project being implemented by SFH Rwanda under the USAID/Rwanda Social Marketing Program .
‘DREAMS’ is an ambitious partnership committed to help girls develop into Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe women. It also addresses the structural drivers that directly or indirectly increase girls’ HIV risk, including poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence, and lack of education.
The story of Ganineza is a story of girls determined to and committed to promoting a culture of freely talking about issues related to adolescent sexual reproductive health and HIV prevention. She confided said that these days girls can openly talk about HIV prevention and sexual violence. They are no longer shy to ask for condoms and the increase in the number of girls demanding for condoms is attributed to sensitization under “DREAMS”.
Ganineza and Uzamukunda are part of a growing peer educator cluster transforming community outreach to adolescent girls in remote areas of Nyarugenge district, by providing information on HIV prevention and sexual reproductive health.
Tonny Omar Nsengumuremye, the Coordinator of Rafiki Club says that after the training provided by RSMP/SFH Rwanda, they have registered an increase in the number of girls asking for condoms. The number has increased to 28% compared to 15% in the past year. Knowledge on HIV and STIs has increased, girls are able to organize events and educate other girls. During the period January to March 2018, Rafiki club distributed 9000 condoms and in April to June they distributed 18,000 condoms to young females through the DREAMS project. SFH Rwanda hopes that through DREAMS, adolescent girls will be empowered to develop social skills to make responsible and safe choices in life.