Translating DREAMS into practice
Monika was born 24 years ago in the Okahala village in the northern Omusati region of Namibia, as one of seven children, where she grew up with her father as well as with her grandparents. In 2018, she had to drop out of school at grade 9 when they refused to pay the school fees after she had failed some subjects.
Monika decided to move to her mother’s place in the capital, Windhoek, to look for employment. However, despite a few odd jobs here and there, she did not manage to generate enough income to continue schooling. Soon, Monika lost hope, and her future was in peril.
In 2021, she moved yet again – this time to Oshakati. One day she visited the health center for medical services; a community care worker assessed Monika’s health status and spoke to her about vulnerabilities in her life. Following this discussion, the community care worker enrolled her in the U.S. Government-funded DREAMS program. DREAMS stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe, and helps young women to stay HIV-free by providing comprehensive health and social support services.
After participating in some of the services offered in the DREAMS program, Monika learned that she was eligible to begin the economic empowerment component of the DREAMS program. Monika attended classes in nail technology. The training included marketing strategies, salon safety, nail anatomy, nail products, and shapes. Equally critical, Monika received training in business startup and management. Monika quickly became a passionate nail artist and soon thrived in her new profession.
The DREAMS program opened the doors to entrepreneurship for Monika. She started a small business in Oshakati where she successfully provides manicure and pedicure services to clients from all walks of life. Over the past months, she has earned between N$1,800 and N$2,000. With this income, Monika can regularly replace the nail kit and other materials and even pay rent for the space she uses at a local salon, leaving her with a monthly net profit of approximately N$700 to N$900.
Apart from the entrepreneurship benefits she gained through DREAMS, Monika has acquired vital knowledge on how to prevent HIV and gender-based violence. She felt empowered to make a decision to take Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to better protect herself from acquiring HIV infection. Monika has gained confidence through the program, and she is happily sharing information about DREAMS with her female friends.
“I will encourage more young women to join the project because it is not only about HIV prevention but also about changing lives both economically and financially,” says Monika. “I am now a qualified nail technician who is earning money for a living. I am grateful for the opportunity I got from the DREAMS program.”
DREAMS is funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented in Namibia by Project HOPE and ACHIEVE.