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Ethiopian girl band Yegna loses millions in British foreign aid funding

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An Ethiopian girl band has lost its UK foreign aid funding after criticism over a grant reportedly worth millions.

Pop group Yegna use music to promote female empowerment in Ethiopia.

They were described as “Ethiopia’s Spice Girls” by the Daily Mail in a report criticising the £5.2million it claimed was allocated to the group to develop a “branded media platform” which would include a radio drama.

Overall, the Government had planned to give Girl Effect, the organisation which created Yegna, £11.8m between 2015 and 2018.

The band sing songs about women’s rights to challenge gender-based violence, child marriage and high rates of teen pregnancy in Ethiopia.

Who are Yegna?

Yegna, Amharic for “Ours”, was created as a “multi-platform culture brand” to engender conversations about the positive roles young girls can have in Ethiopian society.

Pronounced ‘Yen-ya’, the group released their first single Abet, which means “we are here”, four years ago.

Their lyrics tackle negative attitudes towards women. Lyrics include: “Women are sisters, women are mothers, women are wives. Let’s respect them. Tell that guy to respect girls and we will respect him.”

Girl Effect says that through drama, music and their talk show Yegna confronts real-life issues such as early marriage, violence and barriers to education, “challenging the way people think about girls – and the way girls think of themselves”.

In 2015, Girl Effect said 3.3 million people in Ethiopia had listened to or watched a Yegna drama, talk show or film. The group had a number of number one hits.

Girl Effect says Yegna has raised awareness of gendered social issues across the country. According to its website, 93 per cent of women who regularly listen to Yegna agreed with the statement ‘You would speak to someone if you saw a young girl being forced to get married’, compared to 53 per cent of women who had not heard of Yegna.

‘Wasted’

But The Mail branded funding for Yegna a “blood boiling” waste and accused the Government of squandering taxpayers’ money. The paper highlighted the group as part of its campaign against Britain’s £12 billion foreign aid budget for developing countries.

The Girl Effect project

Girl Effect describes itself as a creative social business aimed at empowering young girls and women in Ethiopia. It was set up by the Nike Foundation in 2008 and became an independent entity in 2015.

Farah Ramzan Golant, Chief executive of the Girl Effect project, told The i  in August that the world is quite rightly spending billions in aid on schools, hospitals, wells and putting “vital supply side assets on the ground”. However, she said girls are often denied access to these services because of a prevailing attitude that they are not “worth it” and it was this attitude that needed addressing.

 

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