ONIIPA – Some 8 322 adolescent girls from 32 schools in Oshikoto Region have been reached through HIV prevention education, with more than half of the them identified as eligible from the provision of a comprehensive package of services to mitigate the impact of HIV.
This was done through the DREAMS project under the auspices of Project Hope Namibia in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
DREAMS, which stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, Aids-Free, Mentored and Safe, intends to address sexual reproductive health issues, counselling and prevention of gender-based violence among school-going girls and adult women.
US Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson, in a speech read on her behalf by Olavi Tauya, the USAID regional advisor on HIV Clinical, said since its inception 38 cases of GBV were reported in the last six months that required treatment as a result of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.
“Sadly, seven of these crimes were committed against girls that were between the ages of 10 to 14,” said Johnson at the launch of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) project, and handover of textbooks to Hans Daniel Namuhuja Secondary School in Oniipa.
She further noted an assessment conducted on the situation of adolescent girls and young women revealed that three percent never attended school, while 15 percent of girls under the age of 20 were not attending school. “Of concern also is that about six percent of school-going girls between 15 and 19 are not supervised by caregivers, making them vulnerable to teenage pregnancy, GBV and higher risk of HIV infections,” she noted.
“DREAMS cannot do it for you, but DREAMS will help you unlock your potential and make you a more resilient person who can cope with these challenges,” she said.
DREAMS interventions are implemented in Windhoek, Katima Mulilo, Omuthiya, Tsumeb and Onandjokwe.
About 27 teachers have been trained as tutors for the DREAMS STEM project in Tsumeb, while 120 more received training at Onandjokwe and Omuthiya on Wednesday.
There are currently nine tutors operating in Oshikoto.
Dr Andrew Niikondo, the vice-chancellor of the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust), a partner of Project Hope dealing with the DREAMS STEM project, said they were concerned with the low number of females enrolled in STEM careers, although he noted that in recent years there has been an increase but the numbers are still worrying.
Niikondo announced that Nust through the STEM Trust project will be giving scholarships to best dedicated DREAMS learners to further their studies in the said disciplines in order to empower women to join male-dominated careers.