I am a Leader Because of DREAMS

Hadale during a conference in Uganda addressing climate change and its impact on young girls and women. The conference was facilitated by UN Women.

Hadale Saru is an adolescent girls and young women advocate, mentor, and facilitator from Mukuru Viwandani Ward. She comes from a family of five children, and belongs to the Borana tribe. She enrolled in the CONNECT DREAMS project in 2016 at 19 years old immediately after completing high school and describes her time in the project as a learning process.

When she joined the project, Hadale was a quiet and shy girl. She began to talk and socialize after attending weekly social asset building sessions. She received all the DREAMS interventions including HIV testing, education on PrEP and PEP, family planning, and entrepreneurship and financial capability sessions. She now proudly says she is fully layered.

After a year in the project, she was encouraged to train and become a mentor. Due to low self-esteem, she didn’t believe she was up to the task. After receiving encouragement from her peers and project staff, she applied, trained, and started mentoring girls aged 20-24 years.

DREAMS has transformed Hadale’s life. She now has a positive attitude, is true to herself, and is empowered to tackle life’s challenges with a learning spirit.

Hadale has evolved from a shy, quiet girl into a brilliant, confident young woman who is a force for change. She is a HIV champion ensuring the prioritization of women and girls in the HIV response. She says that being a member of the marginalized Borana tribe does not make her any less of a person. Her activism is mainly inspired by the death of her sister, who died due to gender-based violence.

She is now engaged by UN Women and actively participates in local and international conferences and forums addressing hundreds of people, and confidently represents the plight of her community. Her speaking engagements have been at events such as:

  • East Africa International Youth Day virtual conference, Tanzania.
  • Women in Leadership Advocating for Climate Crisis, mainly discussing how climate change affects girls and young women in leadership, Uganda.
  • PEPFAR Meeting on HIV Response and its Impact on Young Girls in Leadership, Zimbabwe and Canada.
  • Score Card to discuss how gatekeepers and service providers can reduce HIV as a triple threat multiplier, and how the government can act, Senegal.
  • Virtual conversations on how Arts and Crafts can be used as an intervention to communicate and encourage ART adherence for those living with HIV.

Hadale is also an activist against Female Genital Mutilation, which is rampant within her community. She holds FGM sessions in Nairobi and challenges harmful social and cultural norms which continuously drive FGM. She has enrolled various community members as advocates to end FGM including her parents, male champions, and religious leaders. Their involvement has allowed her to reach community elders which wouldn’t have been possible before.

Using the training she gained from DREAMS interventions such as entrepreneurship and financial capability, Hadale saved her earnings from the stipends received from her mentorship engagement and started a transport business. She has acquired a motorbike and employed a rider making KES 15,000 profit monthly. With her income, she supports her family with their basic needs, and they are very proud of her accomplishments.

Hadale has also been engaged in a year-long mentorship program by UN Women with feminist mentors, which fosters equity and intergenerational sharing to reduce HIV infections. She will pass down the knowledge gained in this program to the girls she mentors, and broaden her mentorship capacity.

“I encourage the DREAMS project team and donors to involve girls and young women in the decision-making process, as they are the ones who will be affected. It would also provide an opportunity for them to grow in different aspects. The DREAMS Project has transformed lives and continues to empower AGYWs.” She concludes.

Hadale plans to return to school for higher education, where she will pursue a course in Project Management.

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