Remarks by Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales at the Launch of the DREAMS Campaign

Good evening,

I am delighted to be here in support of another excellent DREAMS Lesotho initiative!

DREAMS stands for “Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe.” And that’s how we want all our girls and women to be.

Let me start by saying that today, November 25, is significant to me because it marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. As a mother and as a daughter, I am honored to help launch the “DREAMS, For Girls Like Us” campaign which is designed to protect and empower Basotho women. You have my unwavering support to the global call to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls. I have had the privilege of meeting so many Basotho girls and young women who have inspired me by their courage, resilience, and desire to empower themselves, those around them, and their country. When the rights of women and girls are recognized, when their needs are met, and when their voices are heard, they are empowered to drive change in their families, their communities, and the world.

So, it brings me great joy to be here, along with the First Lady, Mrs. Majoro, and the Minister of Health, Honorable Maqelepo, to launch a campaign that re-introduces the DREAMS program to the public. Each of us is proud to have played a role in helping adolescent girls and young women in Lesotho stay safe, be empowered, and follow their dreams.

As the United States Ambassador to Lesotho, I am so very proud of our partnership with the Government in the fight to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this beautiful mountain kingdom. Through PEPFAR, we work directly with the Ministry of Health and implementing partners to support Lesotho’s progress towards achieving HIV/AIDS epidemic control. Together with our partners, the United States has invested in each and every facet of the HIV response in this country – since 2007, we have remained steadfast in our support, investing close to 7 billion Maloti or nearly 448 million dollars. Through the DREAMS initiative, PEPFAR is working across 10 Sub-Saharan African countries to reduce new HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women.

The DREAMS program was initiated in Lesotho in 2015, focusing on two high burden districts: Maseru and Berea. In October 2020, we expanded to two new lowland districts: Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek, where HIV incidences remain high. The DREAMS initiative is a holistic approach that aims to empower adolescent girls and young women between 10 to 24 years of age. Most importantly, DREAMS advances gender equality and reduces adolescent girls and young women’s vulnerability by working across many sectors. For example, a DREAMS socio-economic program trains young women in financial management and assists them with saving money, budgeting, and planning for their future businesses. Further, partner organizations help these bright and ambitious young women register and launch their own businesses and assist them in securing internships with organizations and businesses. Each of these activities help Basotho women generate their own income and become more financially independent, thereby helping to move the entire Kingdom of Lesotho forward.

Finally, the DREAMS initiative is implemented by four PEPFAR partners, namely Baylor Lesotho and its consortium KB, Jhpiego, Population Services International (or PSI), and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (known as EGPAF). Through their strong collaboration, these partners provide comprehensive support to the adolescent girls and young women enrolled in DREAMS. I want to give my heartfelt thanks to each of our implementing partners for working tirelessly to change the situation for women and girls in Lesotho.

This year, we mark yet another milestone for DREAMS Lesotho. I am also happy to announce that the DREAMS program’s funding has increased by 219 million Maloti – from 10 million dollars to 14 million dollars. With increased funding, the program has also expanded to new districts — Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek and will increase services to adolescent girls and young women. Lastly, the program has also recruited 38 adolescent girls and young women who previously completed the DREAMS program to return as full-time DREAMS Ambassadors. I look forward to working closely with our DREAMS Ambassadors, First Lady Majoro, and Minister of Health Maqelepo to ensure this program continues to support the resilience of adolescent girls and young women across Lesotho.

In 2018, I was privileged to launch the “#IAmFollowingMyDREAMS” campaign. It was so moving to see brave and bold Basotho women and girls taking control of their lives and, most importantly, their futures. Today, I am here, once again, to help to launch the new, unified “DREAMS, For Girls Like Us” campaign. I firmly believe in the DREAMS mission because we all know that when young women and girls are safe, healthy, and educated, they are empowered. Today, I encourage all Basotho young women and girls to participate in this life-changing program.

Let me conclude by reaffirming the United States’ longstanding commitment to mobilizing the public health resources necessary to make a difference because controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic requires a whole of Lesotho effort. As Lesotho’s largest donor and most resolute partner, the United States is here to help in achieving this goal by investing 14 million dollars in young women and adolescent girls through DREAMS. We will not successfully end this epidemic until all Basotho adolescent girls and young women are Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe!

Lets’oele le beta poho! United We Stand!

Kea Leboha.

Khotso, Pula, Nala.