Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Head of Matabeleland South Office
WHILE her dream of becoming a lawyer stalled despite the impressive 15-point score, Miss Nomkhuleko Ncube, 24, has found purpose in being a peer educator who shares sexual and reproductive health and empowerment issues economy with the young girls of Gwanda.
Her experience as a peer educator has motivated Miss Ncube who aspires to become a human rights lawyer.
Originally from the Fumugwe countryside, Miss Ncube was exposed to the social, economic and sexual risks and challenges faced by adolescent girls and young women.
Miss Ncube, who is self-reliant, bold and exudes a lot of confidence, was selected to be a service facilitator under the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, Aids-free, Mentored and Safe) program last December. She was later elevated to the rank of Gwanda District Ambassador for the program.
The program helped her complete a three-month training in minerals processing at the Zimbabwe School of Mines.
DREAMS seeks to empower adolescent girls and young women through youth-friendly reproductive health care and the creation of social assets. It is a USAID-funded program that also mobilizes communities for change through HIV and school and community violence prevention. It is implemented by Zimbabwe Health Intervention (ZHI).
Miss Ncube said her dream of becoming a lawyer still holds true and her training began by advocating for the rights of her peers and facilitating change within the community.
She completed her A-levels in 2016. In 2019, she enrolled at Midlands State University as a law student, but dropped out during her first semester due to financial difficulties.
“I did my primary education at Bethel Primary and grades 1 and 2 at Bethel Secondary in Gwanda. I then transferred to Sikhulile High School where I did my forms 3 to 6. I passed with 15 points at A level and I immediately knew that my dream of becoming a lawyer was coming true,” she said.
“However, I failed to go to university the following year due to financial difficulties. My mother was working in South Africa but she returned home. My maternal grandmother sold a beast and I managed to get a place at Midlands State University as a law student. But I had to drop out of college after finishing the first semester of my freshman year.
Miss Ncube said although she grew up learning in rural schools, that didn’t stop her from dreaming big. She said she benefited a lot from the literature the school received from the Edward Memorial Library in Gwanda as it helped her perfect her language and sharpen her mind.
She said the DREAMS program empowered her economically because she received a stipend as a facilitator and ambassador. Miss Ncube said she first interviewed to qualify for the scheme and then received training. She said that as an after-school club facilitator, her responsibilities include screening teenage girls and young women for enrollment.
Miss Ncube also conducts peer education on HIV/AIDS and sexual and reproductive health issues and economic empowerment education.
“As a facilitator, I am also the intermediary between the service providers and the teenager. If a service provider comes, I mobilize adolescent girls and young women for clinical services provided by stakeholders, e.g. HIV testing, STI testing and treatment, PREP, family planning, among others” , she said.
“I was named a DREAMS Ambassador in June and my main task is to market the program to the community and promote the use of services among adolescent girls and young women. I also engage community leaders and traditional chiefs to involve them. »
She said she found purpose in changing the lives of teenage girls and young women.
Miss Ncube said the hardships and challenges she has faced in life have helped her to motivate and support others, while the experiences of her peers have also served as her life lessons. Miss Ncube said there are many challenges that adolescents and young women face that can best be addressed through peer-to-peer interaction.
“Peer interaction is a good motivational and learning tool. Sometimes people from a different age group may not understand and misunderstand our challenges due to the age gap, but as peers we can overcome our challenges together while getting the guidance of our elders. My training as a lawyer has already started with my job.
I’m all about representation and being a voice for the voiceless. In the next five years, I see myself studying law. With my DREAMS experience, I now think I am a human rights lawyer,” she said.
Speaking at a ZHI meeting recently, the Gwanda District Project Coordinator, Ms. Nichola Sibanda, said that the DREAMS program which is implemented by ZHI in collaboration with other partners including ministries and government departments, OPHID, Matabeleland Aids Council/Population Services for Health and CeSHHAR seek to provide different interventions to ensure that adolescent girls are occupied and economically empowered.
She said the aim of the program was to reduce new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women, with the program targeting 10-24 year olds.
“As part of the DREAMS programme, we emphasize the layering of services to ensure that adolescent girls are empowered and free from HIV and AIDS. If we don’t reach a teenage girl, the likelihood of contracting HIV and AIDS will increase.
Our goal is to reduce new HIV infections among adolescent girls aged 10-24 by 2026 in Zimbabwe. This will be possible through strengthening prevention of HIV and sexual violence,” she said.
“Our goal in the DREAMS program is to empower the adolescent girl and young woman by engaging with communities to change mindsets and identify the challenges that adolescent girls face.
We also have school and community HIV and violence prevention strategies in which we screen adolescents and enroll them in the DREAMS program.
Ms. Sibanda told Gwanda that DREAMS provides educational support to 525 children in 35 schools. 20 young women from the district have been trained with the Red Cross and are assigned to the hospital in Manama.
15 young women received training at the Zimbabwe School of Mines.
DREAMS was announced on World AIDS Day 2014 and since 2015 has grown from 10 to 16 countries of origin in sub-Saharan Africa, including Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, eSwatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Haiti.
According to statistics, about 5,000 adolescent girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 24 worldwide are infected with HIV every week. — @DubeMatutu