A Second Chance for a Young Mother

Yolanda Mudzodzo is a 21-year-old mother of one. She was born and raised in Madombwe village in Mazowe district of Zimbabwe. She grew up in a stable and happy home, but sadly both her parents passed away in 2014 leaving her under the guardianship of her grandmother.

Due to other financial demands, her grandmother was unable to pay school fees and Yolanda was forced to drop out. Shortly after, she became pregnant and her boyfriend denied responsibility, leaving her to face the related challenges on her own. Her challenges further escalated after the birth of her child as she was saddled with caregiving burdens and numerous expenses. With few opportunities available to her, Yolanda began selling sex to sustain herself and her child. Looking back at her choices, Yolanda acknowledges that she succumbed to peer pressure, emulating her older friends who were already sexually active.

“Everyone was having sex and I thought I should do it as well. I fell pregnant soon after I had stopped going to school.”

In February 2017, after two years of selling sex, a local Community Child-Care Worker (CCW) who knew Yolanda’s circumstances approached her about the Part-Time Continuing Education under the DREAMS IC. Grateful for an opportunity to improve her position, Yolanda enrolled herself in the program. She was registered as a non-formal learner at Gombekombe secondary school in Mazowe and immediately started lessons. After successfully attending classes and advancing through the curriculum, she sat for the O-Level examinations in November 2017 and is optimistic to pass.

Yolanda with her savings group

The CCW followed up with Yolanda through frequent home visits and counseling sessions and reiterated the importance of knowing her and her child’s HIV status. After initial hesitancy, Yolanda agreed. In June 2017 she and her child both tested negative for HIV. Yolanda will continue to visit the local clinic with her child for regular screenings. Through the PTCE platform, Yolanda also joined a social asset building club with other AGYW to learn and discuss life skills like decision making, assertiveness, and problem-solving skills; family planning methods; and to be mentored by other successful women in their communities. She now has trusted adults she can turn to when she has challenges and peers who are also eager to chase and achieve their dreams.

“In our savings group, we save and borrow each other’s money for income generating purposes. I now have my own savings through ISALs. I make and sell detergents to local teachers and nurses.”

Due to the coordinated linkages with DREAMS Core activities, Yolanda was also trained in the Internal Savings and Lending scheme (ISAL) and is part of a savings group. The initiative builds her financial literacy and enables her to make savings and engage in income-generating activities. Optimistic about passing her O-level’s with flying colors, Yolanda plans on enrolling for a nursing diploma in the coming year.

The DREAMS Innovation Challenge reaches pregnant adolescent girls and teen mothers with a holistic package of both prevention and response interventions to keep them in school.