Zodwa’s Story: Overcoming Abuse to Inspire Young Women

Speeches Shim

Thursday, July 18, 2019
Zodwa Mabiyela at work
Tebogo Sepeng - USAID/SA


Who is Zodwa?

Meet Zodwa Mabiyela, a young lady from Tembisa, a township east of Johannesburg, who is full of love and positivity for her community.   Life did not start easy for Zodwa, though. After losing her mother at a young age, she was brought up by her alcoholic and abusive father.  

The beginning of her community work

After graduating high school, Zodwa became a volunteer at MES (Mould, Empower and Serve) from 2012 to 2013 in the inner city of Johannesburg, where she came across a lot of vulnerable youth impacted by the HIV epidemic. She worked to refer those who needed special assistance to the right service providers.  The work reminded Zodwa of her difficult childhood and inspired her to serve others who feel ignored and rejected by their communities.

After finishing Social Auxiliary Work studies at a local college in 2015, she could not find a job. Still driven by her desire to assist those in need, in 2016 she joined Siyanakekela in Soweto, a DREAMS program, which is funded by PEPFAR through USAID partner’s HIVSA

Zodwa Mabiyela and her colleagues outside the Choma Café

Encountering DREAMS

Through DREAMS, Zodwa has empowered herself and other young girls through VUTSHILO activities. VUTSHILO encourages young girls to see the importance of taking their medication regularly when infected with HIV and to use protection at all times to avoid spreading the disease.  Zodwa engages in uncomfortable conversations among her peers to help breakdown the stigma of HIV. Zodwa remarks that DREAMS “opened [her] eyes in terms of how many young children go through a lot, and which makes it difficult for them to open up about their status and many other social issues they come across.” 

DREAMS programs take place at CHOMA Cafés and help over 1,000 Adolescent Girls per year. CHOMA DREAMS Cafés are safe meeting spaces that are girl-friendly, safe, and fun for DREAMS program activities including: psycho-social support, life and financial capabilities skills, HIV prevention, skills development and access to internet and other resources.

Girls sharing their experiences and achievements since joining the DREAMS Choma Café

Zodwa says the community taught her to be kind and generous to those in need, especially youth and young girls and women.  Now working as a supervisor at Siyanakekela, Zodwa gives support to the mentors to link them to management. She assists with program strategy for Siyanakekela and also provides group supervision weekly and individual supervision monthly to check and verify the progress of each mentor.  For Zodwa, DREAMS has created a platform for the youth to have a voice, to be educated, and to be mentored.

Story by: Tebogo Sepeng - USAID/SA

Location: Braamfischerville, Soweto