A female pop group known as “Ethiopia’s Spice Girls” has received £5.2 million in British foreign aid, despite criticism that the funds could be better spent addressing social welfare issues within Great Britain.
The band, Yegna, has entered into a partnership with Girl Effect (formerly known as Girl Hub), a U.K. project that strives to eliminate gender disparity through “media, technology and girl-centred community engagement.” The initiative is being supported by the Department for International Development (DFID), which gave £16 million in funding to Girl Effect.
On its website, Girl Effect describes Yegna as “a multi-platform culture brand inspiring positive behaviour change for girls in Ethiopia.” According to a contract uncovered by The Daily Mail, an agency has been solicited to help Yegna develop a radio drama, a talk show, and new music “that champions girls and creates a national conversation about their challenges and their potential to overcome the problems.”
This is not the first time that the five-person girl group has received money from the British government. In 2013, Girl Effect gave £4 million to Yegna. Last year, the watchdog group Independent Commission on Aid Impact reportedly called on ministers to halt the project, citing “significant concerns” that the funding may not be “merited.”
News that Yegna received an additional £5.2 million from the DFID has prompted an outcry among some lawmakers. “How can we be spending millions on a girl band when the money could be much better spent at home on helping the elderly?” Tory MP Peter Bone said in an interview with The Daily Mail. “This is the sort of up the wall project which shows why we must not have an aid pledge linked to GDP.
“This is not helping starving people, this is not helping refugees. We have to get to grips with this.”
The DFID has defended its decision to continue funding the group, according to The Telegraph. “This innovative partnership is tackling forced child marriage, violence, teen pregnancy, migration and school dropout, which are holding a generation of young Ethiopian women back,” a spokesperson said, but added, “It’s vital those seeking to help the poorest strive to become more accountable so people can be assured money is going to help those less fortunate.”