And your problem with an innovative way to tell girls they don’t have to put up with violence is…..?

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

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Jan '17 - 3:03pm

    Excellent piece from Caron .

    It seems this is precisely what needs funding .

    One of the reasons I am , from a Liberal Democrat perspective, so vociferous on violent crime and in favour of the heavy and constructive punishment of violent criminals , is that Liberalism must support the vulnerable and the victim .

    We do women and girls a massive disservice by only looking at the low level non harmful so called crimes that mean we should , sensibly not be using custodial sentences, without saying that our society needs a moral compass on the , to quote Mill and Taylor, The subjection of women.

    As I said in the , in my view materially dominated , comments by Lorley Burt and Jo Swinson, we overemphasise money and pay if at the expense of fulfilment and dignity.

    We are in danger of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.That is not to dismiss those other issues. It is to recognise that in countries without our western successes , human rights and women and girls rights are so much more basic , and we must thank goodness we are able to see that and help.

    As in Ethuopia. If the ludicrous Daily Mail could understand this !

  • Jim Forrest 7th Jan '17 - 4:39pm

    Interesting quote from the teenage girl in the poster: “The way they present is in a way that explains Ethiopians should not migrate”. Maybe that’s why the Mail is against Yegna – the prospect of fewer migrants to demonise.

  • I’ll admit to being entirely ignorant of this group until I saw a headline about the end to funding of a girl group. It’s very easy to roll eyes at the thought of us funding a girl group, but having taken a couple of minutes to read beyond the headline, it sounds like an excellent initiative. For those who were equally ignorant, there’s a potted history in this news article on the BBC.

    I accept that questioning whether foreign aid should go on anything other than emergency food parcels is part of a legitimate debate, but the misrepresentation of this project is concerning. Sadly, it’s not surprising.

    I’m wondering if there is now any scope for helping this project be funded by other means? Now they have a lot of extra publicity, perhaps this can be used to their advantage?

  • The Mail are plumbing new depths here, invoking images of old people left on trolleys in A&E’s as some sort of justification for pulling the plug on this valuable work. More than one Tory MP is quoted as saying “charity begins at home”, perhaps the most annoying proverb of all time. Even if one thinks charity should begin at home, why should it end there?

  • Alex Macfie 8th Jan '17 - 3:39pm

    Funny how those on the Right who wail with fake concern about cultural attitudes in certain ethnic communities that demean women, then oppose positive initiatives that seek to change those same cultural attitudes. It shows that they have no genuine concern for the girls and women who are victims of these attitudes, but just want to use it as an excuse to demonise entire groups.

  • Alex Macfie

    I’m sure that many on the right do support those positive initiatives, they just don’t want to be the ones paying for them. There is a large part of the UK population that has a – rightly or wrongly – charity begins at home attitude. I think the government was wrong to cave in to what looks like pressure from the mail, but overall the Tories record on overseas aid has been pretty good in recent years. I’m sure I’ll get corrected, but I can’t remember those on the left doing any better.

  • I don’t think a Liberal government should be supporting schemes like this. I’m afraid it does look very much like a vanity project paid for by the public purse. If middle class people wish to give their disposable income to charity then that is their business.

    Foreign aid should be spent on disaster relief or schemes designed to return a profit. Public money should primarily be spent on the British public. It’s as much about structure than anything else.

    Of course our foreign policy shouldn’t be dictated by the tabloid press either. As Liberals we ought to be quite strong and clear on issues such as this. I think the lack of “working class” Liberals is evident. It’s not hard to see how the “alt right” is able to grow. There is too much identity politics and virtue signalling.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Jan '17 - 8:23pm

    Andrew T: Basically what you are saying is that women’s rights are a western, first-world idea, only to be enjoyed by rich, white people, and that women in third-world countries should accept their lot in life: misogyny is in their culture so tough. That is a totally illiberal way of thinking.

  • @Alex Macfie : I don’t think women’s rights are an exclusively “western” idea. I think this sort of charitable work should be funded by sources other than the taxpayer. There’s no proper quantitative way of judging the effectiveness of something like this and the money could be spent on public services.

    If public opinion is strongly in favour of such spending then I wouldn’t campaign against it, but I suspect most people would prefer stricter controls on foreign aid spending.

  • Alex Macfie 9th Jan '17 - 12:22pm

    @Andrew T: That is tantamount to saying that women’s rights are a first-world issue, and just a “nice to have”. I disagree. I think they are fundamental to the development of a nation, which is why it is totally appropriate for taxpayers to fund these initiatives. I agree that foreign aid spending should be carefully monitored, but programs like this are not the problem.

  • Priti Patel’s collapse in the face of the Daily Mail says more about her than it does about much else.

  • Unfortunately many like to claim that foreign aid is a waste of money, because nothing changes. Yet when a scheme like this comes along, one which could make meaningful, structural changes to attitudes which will in turn reduce the dependency on emergency aid, people complain that it’s not feeding the hungry.

    First aid style aid is necessary, but will continue to be necessary so long as people are sniffy about the long-term stuff.

    Whether or not this particular project was good value for money is trickier to say, but quite plainly it was about a lot more than funding a ‘girl group’, and the fact the lie was needed, or desirable says a lot about our media, and how we respond to it – including, sadly, the current government.

  • “Unfortunately many like to claim that foreign aid is a waste of money…”

    It’s worse than that Fiona, because the sense is that its not just a waste, but corrupt cash for dodgy dealings. The difficulty is finding out how this money was (is), spent.?

    On several occasions I’ve tried to delve into the ‘brick wall,..opacity’, of Dfid’s excel spreadsheats to work out what the yearly (£) billions are actually spent on.?

    For example my ‘limited forensics’ have informed me that in 2015,..

    £374 million was spent in Pakistan
    £218 million was spent in Sierra Leone

    However,..I simply cannot get past that brief outline of accounts, to find out what that money was,.. actually spent on.? If I can’t find out what or where that money went, how on earth can I even determine if it was WELL spent.?

    Can anyone point me to some [link], or some form of more detailed Overseas Aid accounts, to show, in a way that we can all see transparently, and forensically, where this overseas aid money goes,.. not least to negate the feeling that much of it it goes [quietly and opaquely], into some African dictators bank account…???

    Colour me cynical by all means,.. but am I wrong to ask, for details of where, or what projects, these very substantial sums of money end up in.?

  • nigel hunter 9th Jan '17 - 11:30pm

    Yes’ if we are spending money on projects we should know where IN DETAIL it is going. It would be interesting to see if this particular money has increased the budget spent in this area on say education. Or has it gone back into treasury coffers and disappeared.

  • ” It’s not hard to see how the “alt right” is able to grow.”
    The alt right are against empowerment of women, but very strongly in favour of using “culturally based” oppression of women to scapegoat non-white ethnic groups. They are no doubt rubbing their hands with glee at the government cutting funding from this project, thus legitimising their view that the cultural values that promote misogyny are immutable, should not be fought against and are a valid reason for racism. The last thing the alt-right want is for women within those groups to be empowered to fight against such cultural oppression, as it would remove the scapegoat that the alt-right relies on. Funding Yegna would be to stick two fingers up and the alt-right and invalidate their world-view.

  • Caron do you not remember Cameron campaigning very strongly against F.G.M. in particular and all other violence against women? He was very supportive of that 2014 conference, as were a number of M.P.’s across all parties, selective memory perhaps?

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