The Selection Committee of the Daily Trust African of the Year, headed by former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, has chosen a group of five Kenyan schoolgirls as winners of the African of the Year for 2018.
Stacy Owino, Purity Achieng, Ivy Akinyi, Synthia Otieno and Macrine Atieno, from the western Kenyan city of Kisumu, were selected out of several dozen nominees, for developing a mobile application called I-cut. The application has become a very useful tool in the war against Female Genital Mutilation, (FGM). Although FGM is illegal in Kenya, it is still widely practised in the country and many other countries in Africa and around the world.
United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA] estimates that one in four Kenyan women and girls have undergone FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia. UNICEF also said 200 million girls and women around the world have been subjected to FGM, which it described as “a range of procedures that can cause extreme physical and psychological pain, prolonged bleeding, HIV, infertility and death.”
The five girls, aged 15 to 17, call themselves “the Restorers”. As one of them, Synthia Otieno, said, they adopted the name because they want to “restore hope to hopeless girls.” I-cut is a slick mobile application that connects girls at risk of circumcision with rescue centres. It also gives legal and medical help to those who have been subjected to FGM. “The Restorers” are partnering with several non-governmental organisations in their mission to eradicate FGM. They were Africa’s only representatives at Google’s 2017 Technovation Challenge which took place in Silicon Valley, California, USA.
The winners of the award will be honoured at a ceremony in Abuja, Nigeria in January 2019. The programme was started by Daily Trust Newspaper, eleven years ago. The first winner was the Congolese surgeon, Dennis Mukwege, who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize. Winners of the African of the Year award get $USD 25,000 prize money in addition to a specially made plaque.