Bantwana DREAMS Ambassador selected to speak at regional HIV and adolescence conference in Kenya

Margret (left) and another youth delegate at the International Workshop on HIV & Adolescence in Nairobi, Kenya.

Margret, a 15-year-old girl from Agago District, was forced to drop out of school until she learned about the DREAMS program in northern Uganda and was supported to return to school. Through DREAMS (PEPFAR-funded),  Bantwana works with partners to deliver a holistic package of education, health/HIV, livelihoods, parenting, and economic supports, reaching 15,000 adolescent girls and young women (AGYW). Our program builds resilience and helps girls and their families prevent and respond to gender-based violence and HIV.

“Before DREAMS, I never talked to anyone about things that bothered me. I was shy and just kept to myself,” said Margret, “Through DREAMS, I learned how to express my feelings and now encourage other girls to do the same.” A natural leader, Margret was selected by her peers as a DREAMS Ambassador soon after joining the DREAMS Club at her school. As a DREAMS Ambassador, Margret acts as a representative for her group and shares the story of how the DREAMS program has impacted her life. Ambassadors such as Marget serve as role models for their peers, encouraging and supporting other girls to develop confidence and build skills to protect themselves against violence.

Margret joined more than 350 youth participants, representing Uganda’s DREAMS program at the International Workshop on HIV & Adolescence in Nairobi in early October 2019. The youth-focused conference explored cross-cutting clinical, mental health, and other social protection issues related to HIV. Margret shared her own story, learning about and supporting other family members living with HIV as well as her own fears and concerns about HIV testing: “I was really scared when I went for testing but relieved when I received my negative test results. Now, I encourage other youth to get tested. I also support fellow students living with HIV in my school.” At the conference, Margret connected with a global community of youth, which excited and energized her. “I didn’t realize how many of us were dealing with similar things. It motivated me to do even more in my community,” she shared. Margret also learned how DREAMS works throughout 10 different countries to keep AGYW safe from HIV and about the crucial role that AGYW play in achieving the goals of the DREAMS program. After attending the conference and engaging with young people from across the region, Margret was inspired to create more awareness among her fellow peers and people in her community about keeping girls safe.

At USAID’s request, DREAMS Ambassadors from WEI/Bantwana’s Uganda and Mozambique programs will participate in the upcoming International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), in Kigali, Rwanda from December 2-7, 2019. Learn more about Margret’s story and Bantwana’s work with adolescent girls and young