Britain scraps £5million foreign aid for Ethiopia’s Spice Girls after Mail revealed ‘blood boiling’ waste of taxpayers’ money
- The five-piece pop group Yegna was formed as part of the Girl Effect programme
- Department for International Development has ended partnership with scheme
- Comes after Secretary Priti Patel was challenged about £5.2 million band grant
British taxpayers’ money will no longer be used to fund the project behind an Ethiopian girl band.
The five-piece pop group Yegna was formed as part of the Girl Effect programme and officials had previously praised the impact the project was having.
But International Development Secretary Priti Patel was challenged about a reported £5.2 million grant to Yegna when she appeared before MPs in December.
The Department for International Development has now confirmed that the partnership with Girl Effect had ended.
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A spokeswoman for the department said: ‘We have taken the decision to end our partnership with Girl Effect following a review of the programme.
‘Empowering women and girls around the world remains a priority, but we judge there are more effective ways to invest UK aid and to deliver even better results for the world’s poorest and value for taxpayers’ money.’
Priti Patel faced fury from MPs over the Mail’s revelation that Yegna, a five-strong pop group, had been awarded a UK taxpayer-funded contract to develop its ‘branded media platform’.
In a grilling with MPs on the International Development Committee Tory MP Nigel Evans told her: ‘Your blood must have been boiling when you saw this.’
Ms Patel replied: ‘That is just one programme, one project and I think it’s fair to say I keep all programmes under review.’
She said she had spoken to the team in charge of the programme to ‘make sure it’s doing what it should be doing’.
The foreign aid cash – which would keep the band going until at least 2018 and also helped pay for a radio drama and music – came despite officials warning it may be a waste of money.
Yegna’s aim is to empower young women in the African country through music.
But despite signalling that the funds going to the band were under review, Ms Patel defended Britain’s aid spending in Ethiopia.
MEET THE ETHIOPIAN SPICE GIRLS
Like the original Spice Girls, the Yegna members each have a nickname.
Lemlem Hailemicheal, 29, plays a tomboy, Zebiba Girma, 25, a mysterious character, Rahel Getu, 25, a dependable one, Eyerusalem Kelemework, 30, is a genius, and Teref Kassahun, 29, plays a spoiled brat.
They have performed concerts in Ethiopia, taken part in film screenings, and had several number one hits.
Their song This House says: ‘Women are sisters, women are mothers, women are wives. Let’s respect them. Tell that guy to respect girls and we will respect him.’
They are now looking to develop their media brand.
In 2013, Miss Hailemicheal said: ‘It is definitely worth the cost – it is an amazing issue. It means a lot to Ethiopia and we are using the money effectively … We are like the Spice Girls except our music is not just for entertaining – it is educational.’
Yegna manager Selome Tadesse has said the band aims to bring about behavioural and material change for girls, by girls.
Challenged over why the money wasn’t ‘better spent’ on alleviating poverty in the country, Ms Patel said: ‘You can’t vacate the pitch when it comes to supporting women in some very, very substantial issues relating to their well-being, their rights, all the things that matter and should matter when it comes to living in a civilised society.
‘If I may say so, I think the British government and DfID leads the world quite frankly in a lot of the work we do around women and girls.’
In 2013 a Mail investigation from Ethiopia, which is one of the biggest recipients of British aid, revealed a UK-funded project named Girl Hub had provided £4million to help fund the group.
Ethiopian critics at the time said it was enough money to run the Yegna initiative for 154 years.
It called for a review on whether ‘funding is merited’ amid ‘significant concerns’ as officials considered plans to pour another £16million into the project as a whole.
But following the report, the Department for International Development (Dfid), gave the go-ahead and injected a further £5.2million in the Yegna brand alone.
The remaining of the £16million planned for the wider project of Girl Hub – then re-branded as Girl Effect – was also signed off.
The £5.2million Yegna contract for its brand and media platform was published on the Government website under its Dfid contracts.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-