ā€˜Dā€™ is for Determined: Meet Modreen

Girls’ education is often called the ‘social vaccine against HIV’ because evidence shows a significant reduction in HIV incidence among better educated girls and young women. In Zambia, however, only 41 percent of young women enroll in secondary school. HOPE worldwide Zambia (HwwZ) established the After-School Program to Inspire girls to Resume or complete their Education (ASPIRE) and selected 1,200 girls from the communities of Kalingalinga, Mtendere, Makeni, and Matero in the capitol city of Lusaka. HwwZ has partnered with Zambia Open Community Schools to operate free after-school clubs to inspire girls to pursue education by creating fun, collaborative learning environments. ASPIRE covers subjects that supplement the Zambian curriculum as well as HIV, self-defense, employment skills training, and more.

Twenty-year-old Modreen is a single mother of a 6-month-old son. She lives with her family, which includes four younger sisters. Their parents have never had formal employment so the family has always had financial difficulties. Despite this, Modreen attended school at St. Patrick’s Primary School in Lusaka because primary education is free up to Grade 7 at government schools in Zambia. When Modreen was in Grade 4, her father passed away and life became even more difficult for her family.

Modreen passed Grade 7 with good marks, but the family did not have money to continue her schooling. Determined to complete her education, she went to FAWEZA, a local NGO that supports women’s education in Zambia. FAWEZA sponsored her for two years and she completed Grades 8 and 9 at Chibolya Community School.

In 2014, when the sponsorship ended, Modreen left school. Tired of sitting at home with nothing to do, Modreen left Lusaka in early 2016 to look for employment. She found a job in Nakonde but became pregnant and had to quit her job and move home. She hasn’t seen the father of her son since leaving Nakonde.

Modreen’s family helps with her son while she’s at her part-time restaurant job, where she earns a small amount of money that she contributes to her household.

Modreen heard about ASPIRE from her former teachers, who are now club facilitators at the Chibolya Community School. Since joining in May 2017, Modreen has learned a lot, including how to prevent the spread of HIV and the dangers of drugs. She has also learned how to make re-usable sanitary pads, which helps her with personal hygiene.

“The ASPIRE club is amazing because it has wonderful facilitators. I especially enjoy the science lessons, not only because of the facilitators’ good explanations, but also because the science kits make the lessons fun.”

Best of all, ASPIRE has selected Modreen for a scholarship. She will return to school in January 2018.

JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., is the DREAMS Innovation Challenge Funds manager and in that role supports 46 DREAMS-IC winners selected to execute cutting-edge programs across the 10 countries. JSI provides overall program support for DREAMS–IC and technical assistance to implementing partners includes strengthening partners’ institutional capacity to manage awards in compliance with U.S. Government regulations and supporting them in reaching the DREAMS–IC goal to reduce the incidence of HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women.

To learn more about the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, please visit www.dreamspartnership.org. This publication was funded through a grant from the United States Department of State as part of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, managed by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. (JSI). The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State or JSI.