A number of young girls in Thika's Kiandutu slums have an empowerment programme to thank for fulfilling their education dreams and saving them from drowning in slum life. Their dreams of making it in life had almost been shattered due to high poverty levels in their families, and they had almost slid into the dangerous slum life before they got enrolled in the programme. Joyce Kavutha, one of the beneficiaries, cannot comprehend what could have become of her life had the programme not come through for her. The poverty levels in her family could not allow her to continue through secondary education, and she almost dropped out when in Class Seven. She thought she was destined for failure but continued to enthusiastically pursue education until a well-wisher recommended her to the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe), a United States government-sponsored programme that helps to reduce the HIV/AIDS rate among adolescent girls and young women in the HIV high-burden village. Under the programme, Kavutha received a subsidy that took her through secondary education before she transited to Kenyatta University, where she is currently pursuing a degree in education science. Tabitha Wangari, 25, a teenage mother, joined the programme after almost sinking into depression after getting dumped by her boyfriend. She enrolled in a tailoring course where she started making mats and repairing clothes, and currently she is a successful entrepreneur in the cloth-making business. The two, who would otherwise have sunk into slum life, are among 7,000 girls from Kiambu County who have benefited from the programme, which has given them financial breakthroughs and future career dreams. According to Wilson Omondi, a Director in Charge of Liverpool Voluntary Counselling and Testing (LVCT) services that implements the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC in Kenya), the programme has been a life changer for several girls since it started four years ago. Among the skills the girls are taught include financial literacy, entrepreneurship, vocational skills training, and the provision of business start-up kits. 'The programme has been a life changer for several girls who would otherwise have sunk into slum life. Some are either in school or doing businesses for their economic empowerment,' said Omondi during a meeting with the beneficiaries at Kiandutu slums yesterday. Kiambu County Director of Public Health, Teresia Wanjiru, who was present at the meeting, said the DREAMS programme has significantly reduced teenage pregnancies, transmission of sexually related diseases, and school dropouts while economically empowering young mothers with income-generating activities. Residents called for more enrollment in the programme to enable more girls to achieve their dreams. The programme empowers vulnerable adolescent girls and young women between the ages of 10 and 24 with the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy choices and remain HIV-free.
Source: Kenya News Agency