Yegna, pronounced Yen-ya, means “ours” in Amharic – the official language of Ethiopia. Yegna is also an all-girl Ethiopian pop-music band. There are five girls with five different personalities… does this sound a bit familiar? These girls are basically the Spice Girls of Ethiopia, but better.

While I believe there is a whole lot of superficiality in the Spice Girls, they did push through boundaries and empowered women and girls everywhere. Read this piece on how the Spice Girls were good role models. I mean, my 6 year old self was obsessed for a reason...and now my present self is obsessed with this Yegna band!

The five girls of Yegna

Sara, on the left (real name: Eyerusalem Kelemwork) is known as the “smart and studious one”.

Mimi, on the right (real name: Lemlem Haile Michael) is known as the “tough and street-smart, but caring one”.

‘Baby’ Melat, on the left, (real name: Teref Kassahun) is known as the “cute, fun princess”.

Lemlem, on the right, (real name: Rachel Getu) is known as the “caring and maternal one”.

Emuye, (real name: Zebiba Girma) is the vivacious music-lover.

Bands are great because with each member having a different persona, they can reach out to a whole slew of people and expand their audience. I can’t tell you how many arguments I had with my friends over which Spice Girl was cooler, but nevertheless we all liked the Spice Girls as a group–because they cannot be one without the other.

But, onto women and girls empowerment, this was Yegna’s main purpose for forming together. In the video above, they mention these stats:

- 1 in 3 Ethiopian girls can't read.

- 1 in 3 don't even get to go to school.

- 1 in 5 say they don't have a single friend.

- 2 out of 3 women believe that wife-beating is justified.

The band produces, edits and stars in a bi-weekly radio drama and talk show for young women, addressing the stats above and many much needed-to-be-talked-about topics such as forced marriage, sexual harassment, self-confidence, the importance of education, etc. They reach 5 million people with this radio show alone. They make a huge impact in a lot of girls’ lives.

Girl Hub Controversy

Yegna formed together in April, 2013 as a part of the internationally funded Girl Hub that also operates in Nigeria and Rwanda. As I was doing research on this band, I came across this article which basically criticized Girl Hub and suggested the money the band receives from Girl Hub is too much. Now, here are my thoughts on this. If that crapload of money, yes it is a crapload, is being put towards empowerment and peace for underprivileged women and girls, then I’m absolutely, unequivocally, completely okay with that.  

Empowerment, but also more

Yegna isn’t just about women and girls’ empowerment, men and boys also seem to love this band, and that is so great. I call on all global citizens to check out their music. While you may not speak Amharic, their melodic voices are great to listen to, and you can read the English translated lyrics to read why it is so empowering!

Check our their songs here.


Demand Equity

The Spice Girls of Ethiopia

By Joline Faujour