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Girls & Women

These Cambodian Girls Created and Pitched an App to Google to Fight Poverty at Home

There are many great reasons technology companies are clamoring for more women to enter into the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professions — but saving the world might be the best one.

At a competition for app developers from around the world hosted by Google in Silicon Valley earlier this month, a group of Cambodian girls pitched their solution for fighting poverty in their home country, according to Voice of America.

The app, called Cambodian Identity Product, would promote locally-produced and traditional Cambodian goods to the country’s growing tourism industry, thereby increasing wages and decreasing poverty, the team told VOA ahead of the competition.

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The five girls are students at the Ligar Learning Center near Phnom Pehn, and range in age from 10 to 12, according to VOA. They were chosen out of more than 1,000 applicants to pitch their idea in the final round of the Technovation competition, designed specifically for apps that would help achieve the United Nation’s Global Goals, including goals like fighting poverty and injustice.

The girls then got to spend 12 weeks taking training courses in coding and entrepreneurship to develop their app and hone their pitch before competing against teams from around the world, including Hong Kong, India, Armenia, Kenya, Canada, the US, and the competition’s winner, Kazakhstan.

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The team from Kenya, also a group of five entrepreneurial, STEM-minded young women, pitched an app that would help bring about an end to female genital mutilation (FGM) by giving girls and women tools to find out information about the practice and ask for emergency help.

"We want to increase employment for Cambodians, so there will be a reduction of Cambodian migrants to work at other countries, reducing poverty through making income and providing charity to local Cambodians," Chea Sopheata, 11, told the judges.

That the girls traveled from Cambodia to the global epicenter of technology innovation to present their idea is remarkable on its own, but taken together with the fact that in their home country only 14% of STEM students are girls make the achievement extraordinary.