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Girls & Women

These African Girls Invented an App to End FGM, Now They’re Bringing It to Google

A group of five teenage girls from Kisumu, Kenya, are hoping to bring an end to female genital mutilation as they head to Google with their FMG-battling app invention: I-cut. 

The app allows users to call for help or a rescue, report FGM, or find out information on FGM. Users can also donate and provide feedback in the app, according to TRF

They created the prototype for the app for the Technovation’s World Pitch Summit, an international competition held in August for girls who develop apps that solve problems in their communities related to the Sustainable Development Goals. If they win, the girls would have the chance to turn their mobile app solution into a fully-launched business with support and $15,000 toward developing the app for real use in their community. 

The girls, age 15 to 17, call themselves, “The Restorers” because they are bringing hope back to the one in four girls in their community who is a victim of FGM, they told the Thomson Reuters Foundation

The girls are the only group from Africa chosen as finalists and the only to focus on FGM. Other teams in the competition came up with ideas for apps that gamify recycling, teach sign language, and access the last known location of a loved one in emergency situations. 

The girls told TRF that they are not victims of FGM themselves, but some of the girls said that they personally had friends who had undergone FGM in Kenya. 

"We were very close but after she was cut she never came back to school," Purity Achieng told TRF, referring to a classmate. "She was among the smartest girls I knew."

And so, the budding software developers are using their education in technology to help their fellow classmates and 131 million girls who currently are not able to complete an education. 

The app will direct victims of FGM to medical and legal authorities when they click help, one of the girls explained in the team’s submission video.

The app could hold promise for potential victims of FGM in regions with medical access, but in places like Sudan, where one in three girls die from FGM complications due to lack of antibiotics in the region, access to healthcare may need to come before an app. 

The girls are also not the first to come up with the idea for an app that aims to be a solution for combatting FGM. In 2015, an app called  Petals was created by researchers at the Coventry University and launched in the United Kingdom. However, the impact of the app and FGM programs in general lack data, according to the World Health Organization, VICE reports

Still, WHO says that programs that include education, community-based empowerment, and community leadership are promising methods for decreasing FGM. 

In Kenya, FGM has been illegal since 2011, but the practice still affects 28% of girls in the country, and rates of FGM vary among communities. Globally, 200 million girls have undergone FGM across 30 countries, according to UNICEF.  

"FGM is a big problem affecting girls worldwide and it is a problem we want to solve," Stacie Owino, one of the team members, said

The girls will head to Google headquarters on Aug. 6 for the competition and an award ceremony held from Aug. 7 to Aug. 11 where they hope to win the $15,000 prize, TRF reports.  

Whether or not her team wins, Owino remains optimistic. She said that she believes the experience of attending the competition will change their lives and their perspectives on the world.