Behold the next generation of social activists who are taking on one of the world’s most barbaric practices toward women. The teen girls pictured are from Kisumu, Kenya, and are using digital technology to help prevent many other young women from become victims of female genital mutilation, a mostly cultural practice which affects an estimated 3 million girls globally each year, according to the World Health Organization.
Female genial mutilation, otherwise referred to as FGM, is a non-medical procedure that involves the total or partial removal of a woman’s external genitalia. This harmful procedure carries major health risks for girls, including excessive bleeding, hemorrhage, urination problems, psychological consequences, shock, and even death.
Girls who have been cut are less likely to finish school. Their employment prospects decrease significantly because of the correlation between FGM and early marriage and pregnancy. The practice is designed to eliminate sexual desire in a young girl.
According to a Thompson Reuters Foundation feature on the innovative teens, 1 in 4 Kenyan girls has undergone FGM, even though it is illegal in Kenya. The girls from Kisumu, Stacy Owino, Cynthia Otieno, Purity Achieng, Mascrine Atieno, and Ivy Akinyi who call themselves the “restorers”, have invented an app called iCut, which connects girls at risk with with rescue centers and gives legal and medical help to those who have already been cut.
Its simple interface has five buttons – help, rescue, report, information on FGM, donate and feedback – offering users different services. Girls who are forced to undergo the procedure can also alert local authorities by pressing a panic button on the app.
The teen tech innovators are aged 15-17 and put the African nation on the map in a whole new way. They were recently invited to compete at Technovation, a Google competition that helps girls around the world, who develop apps to end problems in their communities, become tech entrepreneurs.
They were the only Africans selected to take part in this year’s competition which took place in California in August, and although they didn’t end up taking home the coveted $15,000 prize money, as Senior Division Finalists their message has already reached much further than their local community. They have been getting global press attention from CNN, Mashable, and Elle Magazine just to name a few, showing the importance of eliminating this heinous practice.
“FGM is a big problem affecting girls worldwide and it is a problem we want to solve,” Stacey Owino told the Thompson Reuters Foundation.
“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,” she added.
The girls live in Luo Community which doesn’t practice FGM, but they have friends who have become a victim.
“We were very close but after she was cut she never came back to school. She was among the smartest girls I knew,” said Purity Achieng.