Female genital mutilation (FGM) continues to pose a significant threat to women and girls in East African communities. Despite efforts to combat this form of gender-based violence, it persists as a cultural practice, endangering millions of girls each year. Stacy Owino, a 23-year-old computer science and mathematics graduate co-developed an innovative app aimed at preventing FGM and connecting girls with authorities and life-saving services.
Here is the story as told by WoK.
Creating the iCut App: Challenging Cultural Norms
Stacy Owino, along with four other talented girls—Cynthia Otieno, Purity Achieng, Macrine Atieno, and Ivy Akinyi—formed a team called “The Restorers” during the annual Technovation Challenge in Kenya. Their mission was to address the issue of FGM through technological innovation.
Despite initial skepticism and challenges, they identified a crucial gap in addressing FGM: the difficulty for girls to contact authorities when they needed help. Motivated by this insight, they developed the iCut App, which empowers girls to seek assistance and provides a platform for authorities and activists to support them.
On Gaining Global Attention
The Kenyan school girls’ app, I-Cut, has gained global attention for its groundbreaking efforts in combating FGM and supporting its victims. The Restorers, as they call themselves, have been recognized as finalists for the Sakharov Prize and nominated for the Technovation Challenge, highlighting the international significance of their work.
Their story has inspired individuals and organizations worldwide, sparking a movement to raise awareness, advocate for change, and protect the rights of girls affected by FGM.
The Restorers’ global recognition has amplified the urgency of addressing FGM and fuelled meaningful action on a global scale. Their feature in esteemed media outlets like CNN has expanded their reach, enabling them to engage a wider audience and garner increased support for their cause.
Their appearance on CNN served as a powerful platform for raising global awareness, fostering dialogue, and encouraging sustained efforts to end FGM and empower girls worldwide.
User-Friendly Features: Assisting and Educating
The iCut App is designed with user-friendly features that enhance its effectiveness. Users can download the app, which automatically detects their location and provides a list of nearby rescue centers, police stations, and health facilities specializing in supporting FGM survivors.
The app includes a distress button, enabling direct communication with someone who can offer immediate assistance.
Additionally, users can send messages to alert authorities about potential FGM cases or urgent situations. To foster awareness and understanding, the app offers information on different types of FGM, its health implications, and a donation feature for those who wish to contribute to the cause.
Challenges and Global Impact
The Restorers faced various challenges, including cultural resistance and doubts regarding the viability of integrating FGM prevention into a mobile application. Nevertheless, their work gained international recognition and support, amplifying their efforts to protect girls from FGM.
Stacy Owino’s role as a member of the Youth Sounding Board for the European Commission further reinforces her commitment to advocate for African perspectives on global decisions.
The Fight for Change: Education and Policy
To eradicate FGM, Stacy Owino emphasizes the critical need for mass education on the harmful effects of the practice.
While cultural beliefs and patriarchal notions continue to perpetuate FGM, she believes that education can challenge these harmful perceptions. Kenya has taken a step forward by implementing policies against FGM, with the goal of complete eradication by 2022.
Stacy hopes that these policies, combined with global support and activism, will create lasting change and protect the rights of women and girls.
Empowering Girls in STEM: Advice and Representation
Stacy Owino encourages girls who aspire to work in STEM fields to start taking initiatives and pursuing their passions. Despite existing gender disparities, she believes that perseverance and self-motivation are essential in overcoming obstacles.
She emphasizes the significance of girls, especially girls of color and those from Africa, occupying spaces in STEM to influence decision-making processes and challenge biased systems.
Looking Ahead: Young Activists Summit and Beyond
Stacy aims to shed light on the global nature of FGM, dispelling the misconception that it is limited to Africa or specific religious groups. She plans to question world leaders on their commitment to protecting women’s rights and urges them to evaluate their policies and fulfill their promises.
Stacy Owino envisions a future where the necessity for human rights defenders is eliminated and where the rights and well-being of all women and girls are secured.