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Spectacular launch puts the spotlight on Ethiopian girls

Girl Hub | By Girl Effect Team

The first episode of a ground-breaking new radio drama for girls was broadcast to millions of people across Ethiopia last Sunday.

Yegna (pronounced YEN-ya, which means 'ours') follows the story of five very different girls whose shared love of music creates an unlikely friendship that each character draws on as she faces different challenges.

The girls go on to form a girl band, and each episode of the drama features a new song - which will be released separately to help promote the show.

To celebrate the launch, Addis Ababa was treated to a spectacular 3D light show outside the National Theatre, as well as the first-ever live performance of Abet - the first song to be released.

Featuring influential Ethiopian artist Haile Roots, Abet - which means 'We are here' - is an inspiring song that signals the dawn of a new era for girls. Since being released on the internet a few weeks ago it's been viewed more than 350,000 times and has received rave reviews in Ethiopia.

Senait Berhane, one of the 500 ambassadors who have been signed up to spread the word about Yegna across Ethiopia, said at the launch: "Aside from school and housework, there aren't many activities or fun shows for girls to be a part of in their free time. I won't miss an episode when it starts. Yegna will be a great addition to our lives."

As well as tackling some of the real challenges facing many girls in Ethiopia - including early marriage, violence and the lack of access to education - Yegna also aims to encourage friendship.

Research by the Population Council and others has shown that without social connections, girls lack the support, advice and role models they need to reach their potential. And yet as many as 21 per cent of Ethiopian girls describe themselves as having no friends at all.

Speaking at the launch of the Yegna programme, the deputy prime minister of Ethiopia, Demeke Mekonnen, said: "This is a very important programme for Ethiopia, and especially for our girls.

"This will help to engage the talent of girls and create opportunities for them to be more active participants in school, society and in all economic and political aspects - which is the direct strategy of the Ethiopian government."

Each week the 30-minute show will be followed by a talk show to discuss the themes of the drama. The audience will interact via Facebook, call-in numbers and free SMS messaging.

Yegna is recorded in Amharic, the most widely used language in Ethiopia. It is being aired in Addis Ababa and the Amhara region - home to a combined population of some 20 million people, including an estimated 2.5 million girls.

The Yegna team is also piloting clubs based on the show, which will create a safe space for girls to come together and learn through games.

Watch the music video for Abet, the first Yegna single

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