The European Parliament has nominated 5 Kenyan students from Kisumu Girls High School who developed a mobile app to help victims and potential victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The girls, who go by the name “The Restorers” are Stacy Owino, Cynthia Otieno, Purity Achieng, Mascrine Atieno and Ivy Akinyi. The app – i-Cut – makes it easier for young women to seek help, find a rescue centre or report the procedure to the authorities.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is awarded each year by the European Parliament of the European Union.
FGM was made illegal in Kenya in the late 1990s and early 2000s in a series of laws and decrees. In 2011, another law, the prohibition of female genital mutilation act 2011, came into force in October. Generally, there has been a decrease in FGM cases nationwide. According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, the 2014 prevalence of FGM in Kenya stood at 21%. This is in comparison to 27% in 2008/9 and 32% in 2003. However, amongst some communities, the prevalence is still quite high such as the Somali at 94%, Samburu 86%, Kisii 84%, and Maasai at 78%. Emerging trends include a change in the type of FGM, lowering the age of circumcision and the use of doctors.
The Restorers previously participated in the 2017 Technovation Challenge in Silicon Valley in August – they were the only African group to take part in the challenge.
The other finalists for the prize are Brazilian human rights defender Marielle Franco, Chief Raoni and Claudelice Silva dos Santos; and Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti.