Music for women empowerment — DfID's support to Ethiopian Spice Girls

The U.K. Department for International Development is once again being criticized over how it spends aid money — this time on an Ethiopian radio show led by Yegna, a girl band dubbed as the local version of the Spice Girls.

The band sings songs aimed at empowering women and girls to speak up for their rights, and critics argue that 3.8 million pounds ($6.1 million) of support is too much for a program that is not sure to produce any significant results.

However, this may not be completely true, as music can play an important role to empowering women and girls, especially if the songs reach rural, remote areas of Ethiopia where girls have limited access to information, said an official from U.K.-based CARE International in Addis Ababa.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested using both national and local radio programs for this purpose.

Donors like DfID, he explained, should also first conduct practical assessments of which initiatives are working, and then follow them up with direct discussions with women and girls living in remote parts of the country to know what they think is good for them, and incorporate their thoughts in project proposals.

Using music to promote women empowerment is not unique to the British aid agency. In 2012, the U.S. Agency for International Development agreed to channel $20 million for the local version of Sesame Street in Pakistan, initially set to run for four years. But just six months later, the agency cut the funding due to allegations of fraud.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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