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One in four women and girls in Kenya have been subject to female genital mutilation (FGM), the intentional alteration or injuring of genital organs for non-medical purposes. Worldwide, more than 200 million have undergone the procedure. But with their phone app iCut, five Kenyan teens are hoping to end the practice in their own country once and for all.
The iCut app provides access to legal and medical assistance for before and after undergoing FMG, allowing girls forced to have the procedure to send a distress call to the authorities, report violations, and find local rescue centers.
The teens, Stacy Owino, Cynthia Otieno, Purity Achieng, Mascrine Atieno, and Ivy Akinyi, call themselves “the Restorers,” and they aim to “restore hope” in girls who have been subject to, or are at risk of, FGM.
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This month, the girls, ages 15-17, are taking their app to California as the only African team to participate in the 2017 Technovation Challenge, a competition for girls in tech entrepreneurship.
The competition, sponsored by Google, Verizon, and the United Nations, requires girls to develop mobile apps to target problems in their communities. Winners of the challenge will receive $15,000 for their app’s future development.
Though FGM is illegal in Kenya, it’s still practiced culturally as a rite of passage to marriage.
“FGM is a big problem affecting girls worldwide and it is a problem we want to solve,” Stacy Owino, one of the developers, told the Thomson 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.”
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.