DREAMS: Making Futures Possible In South Africa

CDC DREAMS Lead Sibongile Dladla, and CDC DREAMS PHI Fellow Bettina Schneider visited Eva’s vegetable stand.

At twenty-one years old, Eva, along with her parents and two siblings, relied on social grants and food parcels from the local church in Ekurhuleni District, South Africa, to help meet their family’s basic needs. Soon after she joined the Girls Club, Eva’s fortunes and those of her family changed for the better.

The Girls Club is an initiative supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) program. Community Media Trust (CMT), an implementing partner of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), supports the Girls Club in Eva’s township.

Adolescent girls and young women participating in the club meet weekly to discuss and receive mentoring on sexual and reproductive health and economic strengthening practices. During the economic strengthening sessions, club members are taught financial literacy, job readiness, and how to start a business. Those interested in entrepreneurship propose a business plan for an idea they believe will work in their community; well-thought-out plans receive R1000 (approx. US$ 68) of seed funding.

After participating in the training to learn how to start a business, Eva eagerly submitted her own business plan and promptly received seed funding on July 1, 2021. Using the grant, she established a vegetable stall on a street corner near her home and earned a profit of R355 (approximately US$ 24) in the first month. After four months, she expanded her offerings to include crisps and candy, which helped to increase her profit margins.

Thinking back to what motivated her to complete the training and submit a business plan, Eva explained, “It took so much more than just filling in the template.” Adding, “At first, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to take up such a huge responsibility of focusing on a business and being at the vegetable stand the entire day. I didn’t know if people would come to buy or if I would sell all the stock, or if people were going to make fun of me for selling vegetables at such a young age. After I spoke to my parents about the opportunity to start a business, they were willing to assist me. That gave me the courage to soldier on with the idea. I then completed the business plan template with assistance from the CMT mentor and the Girls Club facilitator.”

Eva continues to learn many practical lessons about operating a business, sharing, “It is never easy doing business. There will forever be challenges, competitors, and seasons. But I have learned not to give up because giving up will cause your dream not to be a reality.”

Eva’s dream of starting a business became a reality when she encountered the DREAMS program.

She estimated that she currently makes approximately R3,000 (US$203) profit every month and plans to continue investing in herself by furthering her education. Eva is also determined to grow her business into a formal fruit and vegetable store.


HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among adolescent girls and young women ages 15-24 in eastern and southern Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa, girls also account for 71 percent of new annual HIV infections among adolescents, and adolescent girls are more than twice as likely to live with HIV as adolescent boys of the same age. DREAMS provides young women with comprehensive, evidence-based interventions and services to reduce HIV risk from sexual partners, strengthen families, and mobilize communities for change. In South Africa, CDC supports DREAMS programming in 10 districts spanning four provinces. DREAMS in South Africa has reached over 305,000 adolescent girls and young women (AGYW), with nearly 85,000 AGYW completing a core package of prevention services in 2022. As a result of DREAMS and the intensive economic strengthening for AGYW supported through its programming, we see young women like Eva encouraged to be determined, resilient, and empowered.