Meet The Teen Girls From Kenya Who Created An App To Aid Victims Of Female Genital Mutilation

"This app is a conversation starter and that shows anyone can be involved in the fight against female genital mutilation."

Female genital mutilation (FGM) continues to be a major problem across the world, so a group of five Kenyan teenagers got together and created an app to aid victims of the arcane practice. Now the girls, ages 15-17, are in Silicon Valley to take part in the 2017 Technovation Challenge and show the world the positive impact their app can have.

Stacy Owino, Synthia Otieno, Purity Achieng, Mascrine Atieno and Ivy Akinyi, call themselves "The Restorers" (because they want to "restore hope to hopeless girls"), and are the only African team participating in the event that encourages girls to identify a problem in their community and then challenges them to solve it by creating an app. 

The teens' app, i-Cut, helps connect girls who have been affected by FGM to legal and medical services. Per The Thomson Reuters Foundation, the app's "simple interface" consists of five buttons where users can call for help by alerting authorities, asked to be rescued, report an incident of FGM, donate, or provide feedback.



"FGM is a big problem affecting girls worldwide and it is a problem we want to solve," Owino told the Reuters last month as she and her teammates were preparing to fly to America.

Although the quintet's Luo community in Kenya's western city of Kisumu doesn't take part in FGM, they know other young women who were forced to undergo the non-medical procedure that was outlawed in Kenya back in 2011. As Mashable points out, FGM is still practiced because of its "cultural significance as a rite of passage and prerequisite for marriage," and girls who undergo it are often forced to leave school and forgo employment so they can get married and have children. FGM can also lead to chronic pain, infertility, and even death.

According to UNICEF, 21 percent of girls and women living in Kenya aged 15 to 49 years have undergone FGM, and the West African nation isn't even the worst offender. That distinction belongs to neighboring Somalia, where UNICEF reports 98 percent of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years have been forced to take part in the practice.

The World Health Organization reports upwards of 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation worldwide.

"This app a good way of getting people to talk about FGM," Dorcas Adhiambo Owino — the group's mentor and Kenya's Technovation program lead — tells CNN. "It is a conversation starter and that shows anyone can be involved in the fight against FGM."

The 2017 Technovation Challenge is currently underway until August 11, and should "The Restorers" win the competition (which is sponsored by the likes of The U.N., Google, and Oracle) they will walk away with $15,000.

"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" Owino told Reuters.

Added team member Ivy Akinyi, who plans to become computer programmer, "We just have to use this opportunity as a stepping stone to the next level."

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