Vusha Girls held its first graduation ceremonies in both Nairobi and Kisumu Counties for its first cohort of beneficiaries on the 15th and 21st Sep 2017 respectively. Vusha Girls Employability Program is a DREAMS Innovation Challenge solution, which is funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); Janssen Pharmaceutical NV (Janssen), one of the Janssen pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson; and ViiV Healthcare. The award is managed by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc.

A total of 592 graduates received certification having successfully completed training on ICT (digital literacy, coding skills); online work (Micro Work); Life skills (for day-to-day life, for the workplace and healthcare planning); entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills and one vocational skill/trade of their choice

Vusha Girls Employability program is a DREAMS Innovation Challenge solution that is committed to providing a bridge to employment to 1000 disadvantaged but highly potential young women from the informal settlements of Nairobi and Kisumu counties so as to decrease their risk for transactional sex work and HIV infections. DREAMS is an ambitious partnership, funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationGirl Effect, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences, and ViiV Healthcare. The focus of DREAMS is to reduce HIV infections amongst adolescent girls and young women by 40% by 2017. In working to attain its objective DREAMS invested on an innovation challenge that aims to infuse new thinking and creative ways to meet the urgent, complex needs of girls and women while giving them the opportunity to develop into Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-FreeMentored, and Safe women.

“DREAMS Innovation Challenge is a 2yr project that was initiated after PEPFAR released a challenge in Africa. A total of 856 organizations submitted their proposals from the 10 countries and out of these 56 won and 17 of them are from Kenya, including ACWICT. We are therefore proud of ACWICT and laud its efforts that form great potential to improve the livelihoods of adolescent girls and young women and their loved ones,” says Ms. Judy Mwangi, M&E Manager JSI Research and Training Institute.

“The performance of the program keeps going upwards, the girls are already graduating and not only that they are getting jobs. We have heard testimonies and we are very inspired to hear that the beneficiaries are not only good in writing proposals but they are also good in producing results at work,” add Ms. Mwangi.

The solution, implemented between Oct 2016 – Sep 2018, is unique in its design in that it deviates from the tradition of training young people just for the sake of it. Instead it focuses on equipping them with demand-driven skills that meet specific hiring demand needs of employers. It is expected that at least 80% of the young women trained will be placed into jobs, internships, apprenticeship and entrepreneurship opportunities.

“The demand-driven nature of the training means that the program starts with the hiring needs of employers in mind, a strategy that ensures that the young women graduating from the training have increased chances of securing job placements whether as entrepreneurs or paid employees,” says Ms. Constantine Obuya Executive Director ACWICT.

Since its launch the program has given its beneficiaries economic powers and HIV testing services that enable them make informed decisions about their health.

Ms. Judy Muthoni, a beneficiary of the program knew what it meant to be in lack. Coming from a big family, she struggled to get through both education and employment. When she found her calling in hair and beauty therapy, she knew the Vusha Girls Employability Program presented the best opportunity to develop her skill. Today, thanks to the program, Judy takes pride in giving her customers a world class look.

“After I completed training, I was placed at a salon for a three months attachment; thereafter I managed to secure employment. Through these engagements, I am able to earn enough money that allow me take care of my child, support my husband to foot some bills at home and even take of my mother’s medical expenses,” says Judy

More beneficiaries are attesting to improved income that gives them powers to be economically stable and stay safe from HIV infections. In implementing the program, the two County Governments have provided training infrastructure, assisted in the mobilization of young people and absorption of the young people into employment opportunities within the county.