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“The Restorers” : Kenyan Girls Use Technology to Combat Female Genital Mutilation

5 Kenyan Girls and Dorcas Owinoh, the team’s mentor have together created an app called i-Cut, which connects girls at risk of FGM with rescue agents and offers support for those who have already been cut

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  • They have created an app called i-Cut which connects girls at risk of FGM with rescue agents and offers support for those who have already been cut
  • The pain of having your clitoris cut just because someone wants to have you go through a rite of passage

“It’s still fresh in my mind, the scene of female genital mutilation,” said Purity Achieng, a 17-year-old from Kenya.

Achieng was speaking on stage in the finals of the Technovation Challenge World Pitch Summit, a competition that invites girls from around the world to come up with tech solutions to local community problems. Since it began in 2009, 15,000 girls from more than 100 countries have participated in the competition.

Achieng and her team of four other Kenyan teen girls call themselves “The Restorers.” They are taking on Female Genital Mutilation or FGM. They have created an app, called i-Cut, which connects girls at risk of FGM with rescue agents and offers support for those who have already been cut. It also provides information for anyone seeking to learn more about the practice.

ALSO READ: In Malawi, a Kenyan NGO trains Girls in Self Defense to counter Sexual Abuse

“The pain of having your clitoris cut just because someone wants to have you go through a ‘rite of passage,’” said Achieng, during her pitch at the competition. “It’s painful and no one wants to listen to you. You cry and there you are, almost dying but nobody is caring about that.”

At least 200 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation or FGM in 30 countries, reports UNICEF and 44 million are girls 14 and younger. The practice involves cutting out all or part of a woman’s clitoris, which is said to eliminate almost completely a woman’s sexual pleasure, in hopes of ensuring her virginity and keeping her faithful in marriage.

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The Kenyan girls in this competition have not experienced FGM firsthand, as their tribe does not practice it, but they have friends who have. One of Achieng’s best friends was forced to drop out of school and into an early marriage at 15 after FGM, which greatly affected Achieng.

“I think for teenagers to be able to identify problems around them and provide a solution, that is really inspiring,” said Dorcas Owinoh, the team’s mentor, who works as a community manager at LakeHub, a technology innovation hub in Kisumu, Kenya. It was Owinoh who brought the idea of the Technovation Challenge to the team.

ALSO READ: Kenyan girls pedal towards a better future

Achieng said it was her friend dropping out of school after FGM that inspired the team to create the app.

Other teams in the international event came from Armenia, Kazakhstan, Canada, Cambodia, the U.S. and other countries. The Restorers were the only team who qualified from the African continent.

“It’s always better when the people who face the problems, come up with their own solutions because they’re the most organic,” said Tara Chklovski, founder, and CEO of Iridescent, the nonprofit behind Technovation.

Though the i-Cut app has the potential to save lives, it has not been embraced by all Kenyans. “One village elder drove six hours to their school to protest the app because, according to him, that’s an African culture and the girls are being, according to him, Westernized,” Owinoh said.

The man had learned of the app after local media reported of the girl’s acceptance into Technovation. Owinoh said school leaders and teachers remained calm, spoke with him, and then asked him to leave.

ALSO READ: Sexual Exploitation of Women and Girls in Kenya in Return for Food

Technovation comes at a time when women in technology are facing blowback, not just in Kenya, but even at the Google headquarters where the competition was held. A Google employee was recently fired after writing a memo positing that women are biologically inferior to men in regards to working in technology.

“I know the journey won’t always be easy but to the girls who dream of being an engineer or an entrepreneur and who dream of creating amazing things, I want you to know that there’s a place for you in this industry, there’s a place for you at Google—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the girls.

The Restorers did not win the Technovation Challenge, but they will continue their fight against FGM and hope to get i-Cut into the Google Play Store soon. (VOA)

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India Is Developing Technologies To Launch Manned Mission

The state-run ISRO’s technology demonstrator is the first in a series of tests to qualify as a crew escape system, critical for a manned mission.

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India’s dream to put a man in space
India’s dream to put a man in space. Pixabay

India is developing critical technologies for launching manned missions in space and preparing a document on it, a top official said on Saturday.

“Critical technologies are being developed for our human space programme as it is India’s dream to put a man in space. A mission document is in the making,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K. Sivan told the media at an aerospace event here.

Citing the space agency’s successful maiden unmanned pad abort test on Thursday at its Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh for the safe escape of the crew in an emergency, Sivan said that very complex technology was used for the trial, with a unique motor for fast-burning.

“The technology is very essential for our manned missions in the future, as the motor’s performance was very good. Using aerodynamics, the module was turned in a favourable direction to open the parachutes,” he said.

The state-run ISRO’s technology demonstrator is the first in a series of tests to qualify as a crew escape system, critical for a manned mission.

“We are only in the preparation stage. We need to develop much more. We are in the process of refining a document on the manned mission for review and interactions with stakeholders, including the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL),” said Sivan.

The crew escape system is an emergency escape measure designed to quickly pull the crew module along with the astronauts to a safe distance from the launch vehicle in the event of a launch abort.

The first pad abort test demonstrated the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad,” ISRO said in a statement earlier.

Admitting that the scientists had to work on the next strategy for the manned mission testing, Sivan said ISRO’s work was two-pronged, with one on approved projects and the other for research and development (R&D).

The first pad abort test demonstrated the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad,” ISRO said in a statement earlier.
The first pad abort test demonstrated the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad,” ISRO said in a statement earlier. Flickr

“The pad abort test for the crew escape system is part of our R&D work,” he noted. The space agency also tested five new technologies during the pad abort test, as part of its strategy to develop long-term technologies.

“We and the government work on a three-year plan, with a seven-year strategy and a 15-year vision,” asserted Sivan.

Noting that space tourism would happen in the near future, the rocket scientist said it would take at least 15 years to develop the vehicle to go to space and return to the earth.

“We are not close to that. We need to work a lot towards achieving the dream of putting a man into space,” added Sivan.

After a five-hour countdown, the crew escape system lifted off with the 12.6 tonne simulated crew module from the spaceport and plunged into the sea (Bay of Bengal) 4 minutes and 19 seconds later with two parachutes, around 2.9 km away from Sriharikota, about 90km northeast of Chennai.

Also read: NASA Scientists Map Water on Moon Using India’s Chandrayaan-1 Spacecraft!

“The crew module soared 2.7 km altitude on thrust of its seven solid motors without exceeding the safe G (gravity) levels,” added the statement. (IANS)