Five Kenyan girls, between the ages of 15 and 17, are the only Africans who have been selected to participate in this year’s international Technovation Challenge, where girls compete to develop mobile applications that can solve everyday challenges in their respective communities.
The five teenagers, who hail from Kisumu in western Kenya, have developed a mobile app dubbed “I-Cut” to help in the fight against female genital mutilation (FGM).
They will be showcasing the app at the annual all-female competition to be held in Silicon Valley in California between August 7th and 11th.
“This whole experience will change our lives. Whether we win or not, our perspectives of the world and the possibilities it has will change for the better,” Stacy Owino, one of the founders of I-Cut, told Reuters in an interview Monday.
“FGM is a big problem affecting girls worldwide, and it is a problem we want to solve.”
The five will be competing against hundreds of other young coders from across the world with the hopes of taking home the $15,000 cash prize.
I-Cut connects girls at risk of FGM with rescue centers and offers legal and medical assistance to those who have gone through the cut.
It has a simple interface with only five buttons: help, rescue, report, information on FGM, donate, and feedback.
Kenya is one of the few African countries where FGM is still widespread, with girls as young as 10 years old being forced to go through the cut in an effort to preserve the archaic tradition.
A recent Demographic Health Survey (DHS) puts the prevalence of FGM in girls and women aged between 15 and 19 years in Kenya at 27.1 percent.
Getting Girls Entrepreneurial & Leadership Skills
Every year, Technovation, a non-profit 501c3 organization, invites young schoolgirls from all over the world to learn and apply skills needed to solve real-world problems through technology.
Through this program, which started in 2010, girls from the ages of 10 to 18 get to learn to identify problems in their respective communities and create mobile app solutions to address those challenges.
They also learn how to pitch their ideas and translate them into fully launched businesses.
Since 2010, with the help of volunteer mentors, more than 10,000 girls from 78 countries have produced mobile “start-ups” that have helped address problems in local and global communities the world over.
And while each year more and more girls take up the challenge, we know that there are always more problems to solve…and that there are girls from every part of the world ready to solve them, Technovation writes on its website.
The program is aimed at creating a new generation of women who are not just consumers of technology, but creators and innovators.