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Kenyan Girls Develop App to End FGM

FILE - A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016. (REUTERS/Siegfried Modola)
Kenyan Girls Develop App to End FGM
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Five Kenyan schoolgirls have developed an app to help women and girls end female genital mutilation (FGM).

The girls will soon take part in the yearly international “Technovation” competition in California. Technovation is supported by Google, Verizon -- a mobile telephone company -- and the United Nations.

The competition supports girls as they learn the skills they need to become technology entrepreneurs and leaders. Girls who develop apps to end problems in their communities can win money. The Kenyan girls hope to win a $15,000 prize for creating “I-cut,” an app that they hope will help end FGM.

I-cut connects girls who may soon be forced to undergo FGM with rescue centers. It also gives legal and medical help to those who are suffering from the effects of FGM. The app has five sections: help, rescue, report, information on FGM and donate and feedback.

The girls are all between 15 and 17 years old. They are the only Africans chosen to take part in this year's competition. Their East African nation is one of the most technologically advanced countries on the continent.

Stacy Owino is one of the girls who developed the app. She says “FGM is a big problem affecting girls worldwide and it is a problem we want to solve.”

She and the four other developers will fly to California on August 6th for the competition at Google headquarters. They recently visited the computer company’s offices in Nairobi.

Owino said, “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.”

Ivy Akinyi plans to become a computer programmer. She says she and the other girls “just have to use this opportunity as a stepping stone to the next level.”

The girls are from the western city of Kisumu. One of them, Synthia Otieno, says they call themselves the “Restorers” because they want to “restore hope to hopeless girls.”

FGM is illegal in Kenya. But one in four Kenyan women and girls have had their external genitalia either partially or completely removed.

The girls are from the Luo tribe, which does not practice FGM. But the girls say they have friends who have been “cut.”

Purity Achieng is one of the developers. She says a close friend in school “was cut (and) never came back to school. She was among the smartest girls I knew.”

I’m Ashley Thompson.

Daniel Wesangula reported this story from Nairobi for the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

female genital mutilation – n. the cutting and partial or total removal of external female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

entrepreneur – n. a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money

app – n. a computer program designed for use on mobile phones or tablets

undergo – v. to experience or endure (something)

feedback – n. helpful information or criticism that is given to someone to say what can be done to improve a performance, product, etc.

perspective – n. a way of thinking about and understanding something (such as a particular issue or life in general)

programmer – n. a person who creates computer programs

stepping stone – n. something that helps you get or achieve something

level – n. a position or rank in a scale; a position that is high or low when compared to others

practice – n. the action of doing or using something

cut – v. to use a sharp tool (such as a knife) to remove or slice something