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Apr 25
"I refuse to become a statistic"


 

My name is Zamacebisa Zakwe and I am 26 years old, from KZN.​

I am proud to be a DREAMS ambassador. DREAMS is a space for young people to come together and refuse to become just another statistic. 

It is hard to be a girl growing up in South Africa. You have to fight all the time: fight to stay in school, fight against sexual violence, fight to stay HIV negative. In South Africa, HIV is the leading cause of death for girls between 15-19 years.

The problem is that girls do not have the power to negotiate safe sex or make reproductive health choices so it is hard to protect themselves. I grew up in extreme poverty and experienced issues like gender based violence at first hand. I was deprived of role models and dreams for the future.

We go to the community and educate girls, not just about HIV but about their life options. For example, we have girls’ clubs that teach girls about saving and starting a business. Not everyone can go to university. We also need entrepreneurship, so DREAMS educates girls holistically on issues ranging from business development to reproductive health. 

DREAMS is not just about the here and now – we need to keep the legacy alive!​

I am Lindiwe Msimang and I am working for Health Systems Trust. Like Zama, I am dedicated to using the DREAMS programme to improve the lives of girls and women. 
I work in uMgungundlovu which is one of the districts hardest hit by HIV.

My job is to ensure there is a coordinated response among a diverse range of stakeholders, from the mayor to the amakhosi to traditional healers. Each one has a vital role to play in ensuring we can implement the programme successfully.

For example, some traditional healers have had training on HIV prevention. When clients consult them, the healers not only dispel myths about HIV but also ensure they give clients information about safe sex. When amakhosi see our teams arrive in their areas, they understand what we are doing and support us. ​

This response is already showing an impact: the department of education tells us that the rate of teen pregnancies in schools in the district has dropped. We have also had anecdotal feedback that post-violence care has improved significantly.​

As an older woman it is important for me to be there to support girls and young women, to help them realise their potential and reach their dreams.

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