- Government poised to offer funding for ‘second phase’ of Girl Zone project
- Part of Girl Zone’s money was spent on band Yenga to ’empower’ women
- However, watchdog warns there is little evidence it is having an impact
A controversial British foreign aid project that funded Ethiopia’s version of the Spice Girls is set to get an extra £16million, despite official warnings it may be a waste of money.
The Department of International Development (Dfid) is poised to announce funding for a ‘second phase’ of the £54million Girl Hub project, which is designed to ‘empower’ girls in Africa.
But the Independent Commission on Aid Impact watchdog today warns ministers to halt the latest £16million payment unless project managers can show it is working.
The Department of International Development is preparing to issue a ‘second phase’ of funding to Girl Hub, a project aiming to ’empower’ women in Africa, which included setting up pop group Yenga
Girl Hub was set up in 2010 to try to improve the lives of teenage girls in Africa.
Supporters said it would provide the evidence needed to win further Dfid grants on issues such as girls’ education and family planning.
In 2013 the Daily Mail revealed the project had provided £4million to help fund the Ethiopian girl group Yegna, who modelled themselves on the Spice Girls.
British taxpayers’ money helped the five-strong group to launch a radio soap opera and release a string of videos aimed at teenage girls. In a separate initiative, the project paid officials to ‘shadow’ teenage girls in Ethiopia to learn about their lives.
In a highly critical report today the Independent Commission on Aid says Dfid ‘does not have sufficient independent evidence on the effectiveness of Girl Hub’ to justify giving it more money.
All sides accept the project has failed in northern Nigeria, it says, due to the impact of Islamic extremism and ‘entrenched gender norms’, and there is only ‘patchy’ evidence it has been effective in Ethiopia or Rwanda.
The government has been much criticised for mandating that 2 per cent of UK GDP must be spent on foreign aid, with critics saying not all the money goes on worthwhile projects
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Taxpayers will be astounded that bureaucrats are insisting on pushing ahead with spending such dramatic amounts of money abroad on projects of questionable worth.’
Girl Hub is run jointly with the Nike Foundation and has received £27.1million from taxpayers to date. Today’s report also raises concerns about ‘governance’ of the project, and questions whether Nike has met its commitments in full.
A spokesman for the project said last night: ‘Since our launch in 2010 we have reached millions of girls, boys and adults living in poverty with innovative social and behaviour change communications.
‘For example, 84 per cent of girls listening to Yegna, Girl Hub’s Ethiopian radio drama and talk-show, report that it has helped them become more confident, while 76 per cent report it has inspired them to continue their education.’
Dfid also defended the scheme, saying its own internal reviews showed the project was having an impact, and encouraging more girls to stay on at school.
It added: ‘It is well known that girls in countries like Ethiopia who stay on in education will have fewer children and healthier children.’