These innovative schoolgirls are coding to fight FGM in Kenya
Technology

These innovative schoolgirls are coding to fight FGM in Kenya

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Animated chatter spills out from a corner of tech giant Google’s Nairobi offices as five Kenyan schoolgirls discuss their upcoming trip to California where they hope to win $15,000 for I-cut, an app to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

From left: Stacy Owino, Purity Achieng, Ivy Akinyi, Synthia Otieno and Macrine Atieno outside a classroom in school. The five girls from Kenya will be representing Africa in the annual Technovation challenge in San Francisco. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Technovation

The five teenagers, aged 15 to 17, are the only Africans selected to take part in this year’s international Technovation competition, where girls develop mobile apps to end problems in their communities.

“FGM is a big problem affecting girls worldwide and it is a problem we want to solve,” Stacy Owino told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, while snacking on chocolate on a break from boarding school before flying to the United States on Aug. 6.

“This whole experience will change our lives. Whether we win or not, our perspective of the world and the possibilities it has will change for the better.”

The five girls from Kenya’s western city of Kisumu call themselves the ‘Restorers’ because they want to “restore hope to hopeless girls”, said Synthia Otieno, one of the team.

One in four Kenyan women and girls have undergone FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, even though it is illegal in the East African nation.

Although the girls’ Luo community does not practice FGM, they have friends who have been cut.

“We were very close but after she was cut she never came back to school,” said Purity Achieng, describing a classmate who underwent FGM. “She was among the smartest girls I knew.”

I-cut connects girls at risk of FGM with rescue centres and gives legal and medical help to those who have been cut.

Its simple interface has five buttons – help, rescue, report, information on FGM, donate and feedback – offering users different services.

Kenya is one of the most technologically advanced countries in Africa, known for its pioneering mobile money transfer apps.

Technovation, which is sponsored by Google, Verizon and the United Nations, aims to teach girls the skills they need to become tech entrepreneurs and leaders.

“We just have to use this opportunity as a stepping stone to the next level,” said schoolgirl Ivy Akinyi who plans to become a computer programmer.

This story was originally published at Thomson Reuters Foundation News. Reporting by Daniel Wesangula; Editing by Katy Migiro and Ros Russell.

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Dear World Leaders,

We’re putting you on notice.

For 130 million girls without an education. For one billion women without access to a bank account. For 33,000 girls who became child brides today. For women everywhere paid less than a man for the same work.

There is nowhere on earth where women have the same opportunities as men, but the gender gap is wider for women living in poverty.

Poverty is sexist. And we won’t stand by while the poorest women are overlooked.

You have the power to deliver historic changes for women this year. From the G7 to the G20; from the African Union to your annual budgets; we will push you for commitments and hold you to account for them. And, if you deliver, we will be the first to champion your progress.

We won’t stop until there is justice for women and girls everywhere.

Because none of us are equal until all of us are equal.

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