American Idol’s David Cook Helps Brighten the Future for Adolescent Girls in Ethiopia

American idol winner David Cook, left and Neal Tiemann, right, perform for student of Birth Tesfa, a United Nations programm supported by UNFPA , in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo:Stuart Ramson/UN Foundation.
  • 21 April 2010

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Last month,  David Cook, season seven winner of the popular television competition, American Idol,  learned first-hand about the challenges faced by vulnerable adolescent girls in the slums of Addis Ababa and efforts to educate and empower them. Tonight, footage of his trip to Ethiopia will be aired at 8 p.m. EST on FOX on Idol Gives Back , a televised charity event which has raised over $140 million to benefit charities around the world.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to make a special guest appearance.

The United Nations Foundation is one of five beneficiaries for this year’s event.  For more information on the UN Foundation’s interactive efforts during the show, including how to join our online watch party, please visit the UN Foundation Idol website.  

During his three-day visit to Ethiopia, organized by the United Nations Foundation, the pop singer visited the Biruh Tesfa (Bright Future) Adolescent Girls Education Programme, which is supported by UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund. During his trip, David Cook met with youth mentors and students in the Mercato area of Addis Ababa to learn how girls are joining the programme to get an education and break the cycle of poverty.

“In so many parts of the world, girls and young women are denied the chance to fulfill their dreams, just because they are girls,” Cook said. “But the Biruh Tesfa programme is proof that global problems can be solved, we just have to start. I look forward to sharing the images and stories from my trip with American Idol viewers across the country.” Cook and his guitar player, Neal Tiemann, performed for the girls and talked with them.

Giving working girls education and support

The Biruh Tesfa Programme is designed to support vulnerable working girls, aged 10-19, in one of the major slum areas of Addis Ababa. It helps give them the chance to participate in non-formal education at local meeting spaces during hours that accommodate their work schedules.

The programme includes life skills training and mentoring session to increase the girls’ social support networks and reproductive health services, as well as provision of educational materials and sanitary supplies. Nearly 600 girls are participating in the programme, and in the past two years some 200 girls have joined formal schools.

The programme was developed based on the outcome of the baseline survey undertaken by Population Council in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth and Sports in 2003. The research finding revealed that adolescent girls living in the slums areas of Addis Ababa are not safe in their own communities, lack support networks, and often engage in works that put them at risk. It is being implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Addis Ababa Bureau of Youth and Sports and the Population Council. There is also a strong partnership and working relationship with local administration and health facilities in the area in the implementation of the programme.

The Idol Gives Back initiative is raising awareness and funds to benefit various international charities. The concept was the brainchild of American Idol creator and executive producer Simon Fuller and was launched as a charity event in 2007.

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