Yegna: Ethiopia's sound of change

Rooted in Ethiopian culture, Yegna (yen-ya) is a multi-platform culture brand inspiring positive behaviour change for girls in Ethiopia.

Through storylines that confront real-life issues such as early marriage, violence and barriers to education, the Yegna drama, music and talk show are challenging the way people think about girls - and the way girls think of themselves. Since launching in 2013, Yegna has reached millions of people and is provoking conversations about the positive role girls can play in Ethiopian society.

84 %
of girl listeners say Yegna has helped them become more confident
76 %
of girl listeners say Yegna has inspired them to continue their education

Real lives, real change. The impact of Yegna.

Meet young girls Hayat and Yalemtsehay, shopkeeper Ali and a group of mothers in Gondar who have transformed their lives – and see how Yegna is creating a new normal for girls in Ethiopia.

Real stories

With huge concerts, film screenings, thousands of listening groups and number one hits, Yegna is making Ethiopians everywhere stand with girls as they say: "We are here. We will not be silenced."

Rukia, Dessie

There was a time that Rukia couldn’t see any opportunities for herself as a girl in Ethiopia. But Yegna has brought about a change in the way she thinks about her future.

At first she listened to Yegna's music on the radio. But she quickly became a follower of the weekly drama as well. She says that Mimi is her favourite character because she is free, relaxed and a hardworking person.

“The challenges that the girls face in the drama, how much they can handle whilst still feeling happy about their friendship and their lives – this has given me great inspiration.”

Now, Rukia is determined to become a successful writer, to share her ideas, and make her voice heard.


Etekasa and Alemzrf, Dangla

Life hasn’t been easy for Etekasa.

“My husband died when I was very young, and I had to take on the responsibility of raising my kids and making ends meet,” she says.

“I’m a tough mother, and I’ve been hard on my kids. I never allowed the girl to go anywhere. If she was slightly late going to the shop and back, I would scream at her. It’s the boys out there and what they do to young girls that’s the main concern for mothers. If she wanted to see friends, stay late at school, there were always questions – and I would just go crazy at her.

“When I listened to Yegna and the approaches the parents were taking, I realised the mistakes I had been making. I slowly realised I wanted to change and improve. I started talking to my daughter and listening to her answers first before screaming, allowing her to explain. We actually speak now. This is a big deal! Now I make sure my daughter gets everything that she needs.” Alemzerf loves listening to Yegna. She tunes in on Sundays and again to the repeat on Thursdays.

Her favourite character is Emuye, and it has helped her understand about doing chores out of love – and to help her mother – rather than just resenting them for taking her away from studying.

Now she tries to find a balance that means she can help at home but have time to study, too. A bright, dedicated girl in the ninth grade, she wants to work in a bank after finishing school.

Now Alemzerf isn’t scared of her mother anymore. She jokes with her and teases her about how she used to get so angry. Their relationship has become lighter and more loving.

Yegna shows girls and their parents that change is possible. It also helps them cope with situations they can’t change.

Yegna Club, Wenka School, all aged 15

When Aynadis heard that her friends were forming a Yegna club at school, she wanted in. All five of the girls are orphans, and are very close. But at first, her aunt didn’t allow it as she felt anything seen on TV was too western in culture. But Aynadis pushed back: “Look at the girls – they’re all Ethiopian. Five of them!”

Her aunt couldn’t argue with that, and Aynadis joined the club with her friends, listening to the radio drama every week. Now, each of the girls takes on the role of one of the characters; they write skits and songs and put on shows for the other students. Just like the drama, their material tackles the heavy and real issues that Ethiopian girls face, such as child marriage.

The club has allowed the girls to grow confident and strong. They feel a sense of purpose they never felt before.

“I used to tremble, in life generally,” says Fasika. “Girls can suffer from this, and it’s linked to self-worth and how important you feel.”

Haymanot says she used to be very shy and lacked confidence. She says she had no sense of self-worth: “Everything that Yegna stands for – peace, support, friendship – has changed my outlook on life and made me feel proud to be a girl.”

Two years ago, when asked to introduce themselves, these girls couldn’t make eye contact and would whisper their names behind a hand or sleeve. Now they say they’re treated with respect. They’re known as the “Yegna girls”.

“Now, life is perfect. When we’re together, life is perfect.” - Haymanot, 15.

Belay, Taxi driver, Addis Ababa

Belay started listening to Yegna after seeing the billboards on the streets of the Ethiopian capital. “It’s important to me because I’m Ethiopian,” he says, “and this drama is reflecting our culture. It opens the doors to people’s homes and deals with real-life stories.”

Belay loves the radio drama, and he thinks it’s starting to bring about change. Growing up with three sisters, he feels he has always had a very positive outlook when it comes to gender equality – but he knows this is not the norm. He wants to see others opening their minds to girls’ value and potential.

“A woman is a mother, a sister, a friend – she is many things,” he says. “Any girl should be equal with a boy – she is still a human being. I honestly wish for young girls in Ethiopia to be free and express what they feel and get an education.”

Belay says in the city girls risk getting raped. He’s concerned that girls are discouraged from speaking out. He says that Yegna has helped bring these issues out into the open, making it easier for people to talk about them.

“If a girl has some kind of problem, priority should be given to her, rather than the pride or reputation,” he says. “Families should speak about what happened to their child.”

He likes how Yegna tackles issues from a girls’ perspective: “Yegna is educational, and I believe it’s very good. It will take a lot of education to bring about change, but I believe the change will come."

Assnakech, Teacher, Debremarkos

Assnakech’s own story followed a similar route to the Yegna character, Mimi. Her father died when she was young, and she had to help her mother while going to school at the same time. When she was young, Assnakech supported her family by making 500 of the Ethiopian flatbread called injera every night, which she sold to local hotels.

She now has three daughters of her own and has been teaching for 31 years. On Sundays, she runs a Yegna club for the community, where girls and boys come and listen to the show. She rallies mothers and families to join too.

“Yegna resembles real life. Especially Emuye’s story – daughters get abused, they suffer domestic violence. And if they lose a parent or the parents cannot be their support system, the girls become homeless. That’s a very real set of circumstances,” she says.

The drama and talk show are starting conversations and things are gaining momentum. Now the club has a life of its own in the community. Yegna was just the starting point.

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