DREAMS for Maggie
“I am like any 18-year-old girl, I spend time hanging out with friends, but I also find time to spend with my family,” explains Maggie a bubbly and enthusiastic young woman living in a rural subsistence farming village in the Southern African land locked country of Malawi.
As part of a holistic USAID project working in the region aimed at lowering HIV rates among young women through a variety of interventions, Maggie has become an active peer educator, a choice that has changed the course of her life. Known locally as the DREAMS Program, Maggie works with girls in her community to raise awareness about the importance of remaining in school and protecting ones self against HIV.
“After I fell pregnant and had my baby I thought that was the end of me. I didn’t think I could do anything else in my life. But after joining the DREAMS program, I went back to school. And now I know that I can achieve whatever I want in my life.”
“When this DREAMS program started, it changed my life. The way I was back then, the old Maggie would not have been a good mother. Perhaps I would have run off and left my baby (with my mother). But with what I have learned, and how I have changed I will raise my daughter different. I will treat her as a small child with love.”
Females in Southern Africa are at disproportionate risk to their male counter parts of contracting HIV and the DREAMS Program is working to help slow the rates of transmission via various interventions.
The Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) initiative is an ambitious $385 million partnership to reduce HIV infection among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in HIV priority areas within 10 sub-Saharan African countries that account for nearly half of the new HIV infections that occur among AGYW globally in 2014.
While the main goal of the DREAMS initiative is to keep AGYW AIDS-free, the benefits of core package go well beyond the disease. DREAMS upon the USAID decades of experience empowering young women and advancing gender equality across sectors of global health, education, and economic growth, USAID partners with community, faith-based, and non-governmental organizations whose credibility within communities and capacity to mobilize significant numbers of volunteers allow USAID to address the structural inequalities impacting girls vulnerability across multiple areas.
“What Margret did, by going back to school and joining the Go Girls! Club, has made me very happy,” Maggie's mother, Rosemary, explains. “She has embraced her situation. She is a testimony to others that have gone through the same thing. I am so proud of Maggie.”
Maggie has both a bright outlook on her future and a realistic approach to life, as she explains in her own words;
“When my daughter grows up I will tell her my life story. I will tell her how I had her, and what happened to me when I got pregnant. I will explain to her everything I went though. I will also help her understand how she needs to be strong and make good choices in her life. I want to be a role model for my daughter to follow.”
Subject: Maggie Medison, 18
Location: Nsanama, Machinga District, Malawi
Videography: Sarah Grile / Josh Estey
Photography: Sarah Grile / Josh Estey
Editing: Sarah Grile