Today, we are sharing the stories of adolescent girls and young women who are part of our DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe) project in Zambia. These are their stories as told in their own words – the stories of change and renewed hope.

I raise up my voice – not so I can shout, but so those without a voice can be heard. We cannot succeed when half of us are held back. – Malala Yousafzai

The Story of Anna

Brothels and bars were my official workplace– Anna, 15 years old

It all changed when I met a young lady who told me about the Determined Resilient Empowered AIDS-free and Mentored –DREAMS- initiative. It was like a miracle and I jumped for the opportunity. Today, my life has changed for the better. I have stopped sex work and I’m more respectful to my mother. My wish now is find someone to support my education. I dropped out in Grade 7 and I have learnt through the DREAMS sessions that education is critical to my success in life.


The Story of Elisa Chifumakwa

This project has helped me begin a new life. I don’t need to rely on anyone because I can help myself. – Elisa, 23 years old

I was raped by an HIV infected person and at first I did not want to seek counseling because I couldn’t deal with the possibility of being HIV positive. Thankfully, I was not infected. DREAMS gives me a safe space where I feel open to talk about m y past and feel supported by my mentors and peers rather than judged. That has made all the difference. Today, thanks to the loan I got, I have started a small business that allows me to save money and take care of my baby and myself. It is nice not to depend on someone.

The Story of Rita Zulu

I am now determined to achieve my goal of becoming a Journalist.- Rita, 17 years old

My name is Rita and I am 17 years old. I live a very poor compound in Lusaka, Zambia.

My dad died when I was only five years old and my mom struggled to raise me and my three siblings. Without a father figure and a mom who was working so hard to try to care for us, I did a lot of things that put me at risk. Thanks to DREAMS and my amazing mentor, I value myself more. I do not want my future destroyed because of my past behaviors. My dream now is that other girls who are lost and on a dangerous path, find their way to DREAMS so that they too may have a brighter future.

The Story of Matilda Chishimba

I am going to do everything I can to help other girls and young women to get involved in DREAMS. Everyone deserves a chance at a better life. – Matildah, 19 years old

I grew up in seeing my father physically abuse my mother – seeing my mother left bruised and scarred. While the bruises and scars healed and disappeared, each time she was hit I saw my mother lose more of herself. She felt afraid, worthless, and weak.

As a young girl I wanted to find a way to stop the abuse and find ways to prevent myself from being caught up in a similar situation. It is the reason I joined DREAMS. What I learned has allowed me to take care of myself and to educate others to protect themselves too. By sharing what I learn with my mother and my sisters – specifically around gender-based violence – I help give them hope for a better future. What gift could be better than hope?

I have learned how to stay healthy and to protect myself from falling victim to gender-based violence. The project has also helped me open up and interact with my peers. I have learned how to express myself and learn from shared experiences. I have made so many good friends.

Coming here is like a getaway for me. It helps preoccupy my mind from the difficult stuff happening home. Knowing that I’m not the only person in a situation like mine brings me comfort. The encouragement we receive from our mentors also gives us a lot of hope. They are amazing. It has really inspired me to help others, and I hope to further my education and train as a psycho-social counselor so that I can help other young women to speak up and fight for better futures.


Project success with adolescent girls and young women since implementation:

Zambia DREAMS numbers impact

Learn more about DREAMS

Read stories from DREAMS Kenya


DREAMS logo a partner of CMMB          pepfar logo          jsi logo