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June 4, 2017

CHOMA Dreams Cafés create safe spaces for South African girls

Non-profit organisation HIVSA has implemented eight out of forty of their internet-connected CHOMA Dreams Cafés. These cafés should became save havens for young girls and women, offering HIV prevention programs. Young women are the most vulnerable group when it comes to infection with HIV. The cafés are intended to help numbers drop.

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The concept of the cafés was launched in July last year, during the 2016 International AIDS Conference in Durban. Young girls in vulnerable communities have few safe places, where they can interact with, meet and learn from each other. The ultimate goal for the CHOMA Dreams Cafés is to reach 12.000 girls over two years. The Cafés are a new step for CHOMA, building on their existing platform consisting of a digital magazine.

Supporting girls

HIVSA is aiming the Cafés at girls aged 15 to 25. Each week, more than 2500 of them are infected with HIV in South Africa; four times more than males in the same age group. Jean Armstrong, CEO of HIVSA, states that it is obvious that existing programmes do not reach this group. The Cafés thus offer girl-friendly programmes, including psycho-social support, life and financial capabilities skills, HIV prevention, several health programmes, skills development and access to internet and other resources.

Access to internet

The cafes are made out of recycled containers and decked out with solar panels, making them both sustainable and eco-friendly. Most of these girls do not have access to the internet. The containers however provide them with access to Chromebook laptops and a mobile WiFi internet connection. Ikusasa Lethu Youth Project, Persevere Until Something Happens (PUSH), Sizanani, South African Drug Abuse and AIDS Council (SADAAC), St Joseph Ithuteng, Diakonia Aids Ministry, Tshilidzi, and Humana People to People were the first to receive a CHOMA Dreams Café. All are NGOs in Gauteng, one of the nine provinces of South Africa.

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CHOMA, a digital magazine aimed at preventing HIV in vulnerable young women. CHOMA provides this group of women with content about love and relationships, inspiration, health, fashion and beauty – all accessible on their mobile phones. Social media, like Facebook, Mxit, Twitter and Mobi, have resulted in CHOMA reaching over one million users, to inspire and empower them to be the next HIV-free generation. Since 2012, HIVSA has partnered with CTAOP and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) in the development of this innovation to make use of technology to reduce HIV risk in young women.

The digital magazine and Cafés create interconnected places where young girls can learn more about their health. Technology makes information more accessible. The Cafés now make it possible for girls without access to internet connected places to use to internet and become more aware of the dangers of HIV. The Cafés should keep them actively engaged, to ultimately remain HIV free.

The Choma Dreams Cafés are funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP).

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