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Yegna launch

Loud & clear: Radio show gives Ethiopian girls a new voice

Girl Hub | By Roxanne Escobales

People gasped and cheered, cars honked. The side of the National Theatre in the centre of Addis Ababa was lit up by a spectacular video projection showing images of five girls. Just moments before, 550 wide-eyed guests had watched a new girl band blast through their debut single accompanied by Ethiopian musical superstar Haile Roots.

It felt like a special moment. Something very different in Ethiopia.

I was at the launch of Yegna, a new music-based radio show that's helping girls in Ethiopia to unleash their potential. This is a country where 90 per cent of girls need their parents' permission to leave the house and one in five says she has no friends at all.

Yegna - which means "ours" in Amharic - tells the story of five girls who form an unlikely friendship and go on to create a band. Emuye, the bubbly music-lover with a troubled home life; Sara, the overprotected studious one who could use a bit more self-confidence; Melat, the girly 'princess' type from the city; Lemlem, the maternal, caring figure; and Mimi, the swaggering street girl whose tough exterior belies a heart of gold. 

The drama is accompanied by a magazine-style talk show that explores the challenges the girls face. It's also supported by a network of more than 500 Yegna Ambassadors - a team of young women and men who hold listening parties during the Sunday afternoon broadcasts and discuss some of the issues raised.

The evening began with a lively introduction by the talk show presenters before the stage lights went up to reveal a classroom where the girls acted out a scene from the drama before singing their debut single, Abet.

It was the first time the band had performed in public and the song's opening lyrics - "We are here, we should not be silent" - were met with roars of approval from the crowd.

Building relationships like the ones in Yegna is key to giving girls a voice in Ethiopia. The excitement at the launch was testament to both the success of the night and the huge potential Yegna has to nurture friendships between girls in Ethiopia.

As more and more tune in to hear the radio show, the message from the night will travel far and wide, reaching girls across the country and showing them that they too should no longer be silent.

Watch the music video for Abet, the first Yegna single

Find out what the Ethiopian deputy prime minister thinks about Yegna

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