There are few things in life more irritating than the Daily Fail crowing. It is doing just that this morning after International Development Minister Priti Patel announced that funding for what the Fail called the “Ethiopian equivalent of the Spice Girls” was being cut from our international aid budget. In the same way as they pepper words like “bogus” around when talking about asylum seekers, or make it sound like every second person claiming benefits is doing so fraudulently (when the figure is less than 1%), they are trying to make it sound like all the money that we send overseas is being frittered away on frivolity.
What they don’t tell you is that the group Yegna is a brilliant, innovative and creative way of getting an important message about women’s and girls’ rights through to both men and women. It tells girls that they don’t have to put up with being beaten by their parents. It changes minds. Just look at this poster from the Girl Effect, who manage this project.
I’d particularly want to draw your attention to the changes in knowledge, attitudes and behaviours section. Almost all boys who were exposed to Yegna’s work would be moved to report it if they were aware of a girl being forced into marriage compared with just over half who were not. 59% of girls beaten by their parents who had listened to Yegna would agree that it should be reported to the authorities compared with less than a third who had not. 25% more girls who had listened to Yegna realised that it was wrong for men to hit their wives.
There is still a huge amount of work for the group to do. Getting that message out there to young people, making that really important cultural change. There was so much more they could have done to expand awareness out of the urban areas into the rural. But because their work doesn’t fit in with what right wing Tories or Kippers think is important, it gets lampooned rather than lauded.
The message to us is that we need to be aware of what that the Fail is saying and doing. They need to be challenged on every assertion they make because it is likely to be bovine and scatological in nature.
The last few years have been much more encouraging for women and girls across the world as there has been much more political direction from world leaders. People like Hillary Clinton when she was US Secretary of State, our Lynne Featherstone and Lindsay Northover as ministers at the Department for International Development have set much good work in motion. The sexual violence summit that took place in 2014 in London was part of that. When did you ever before hear male politicians talk about this issue as if it was important. To his credit as foreign secretary William Hague took it seriously. Obama has championed the rights of women and girls, too.
The announcement about Yegna is just the beginning of the end of this vital work. In less than two weeks, the US will have a President who doesn’t give a damn and secretly boasts about sexually assaulting women. For the sake of vulnerable women and girls, it’s important that pressure is brought to bear so that these worthwhile projects continue to receive funding. Otherwise, things will just start to go backwards.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings