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Image courtesy of (RED)

Farieda is a 17-year-old student and mother. After becoming pregnant at 16, she left her grandfather’s home and came to the IHATA Shelter. She feels encouraged by the programs and services that the shelter provides and is eager to use what she’s learned from IHATA to finish her schooling.

IHATA Shelter is a (RED)-supported program in Cape Town, South Africa, that acts as a refuge for at-risk women and girls. The shelter provides accommodations and educational opportunities to become self-sufficient and independent.

“I really want to make the best of my life,” she says. “I’m a smart person, and I know I can do it. I’m going to finish school, so I can give myself and my child a better future.”

Poverty and gender inequality, insufficient access to education and sexual and reproductive health services, and gender-based violence are just a few of the issues that continue to put young women and girls at an increased risk of contracting HIV.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has only magnified these issues. As lockdowns are put in place worldwide to slow the spread of the virus, women and girls may be at home with abusive partners or family members, putting them at an increased risk of gender-based violence.

That’s where IHATA Shelter comes in.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, IHATA has continued to support young women in the local community. IHATA’s sexual reproductive health workshops serve as a critical opportunity to provide HIV testing, care, and PrEP services, ultimately helping to reduce the risk of HIV infections and instill confidence among young women and girls.