The Restorers, the ECR Group's nomination for the European Parliament's 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, have today been shortlisted for the award in a joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs, Development Cooperation & Human Rights Committee.
Nominated by ECR Flemish MEP Assita Kanko, The Restorers are 5 Kenyan students who have developed an app to help fight female genital mutilation (FGM). They call the app ‘I-Cut’ and it allows girls at risk of genital mutilation to get help quickly and in different ways. I-Cut allows girls who are in an emergency situation to request help from the police or from a medical aid post in the event of imminently undergoing FGM. They have five different buttons on the app: ‘help’, ‘rescue’, ‘report’, ‘information on Female Genital Mutilation’ and ‘donate and feedback’.
Speaking after the vote in the joint committee, Kanko, who herself survived genital mutilation in her native Burkina Faso, said:
“These courageous girls deserve all our support and admiration and I am delighted that they have been shortlisted for the Sakharov Prize. The girls who developed this app know the horror of genital mutilation from their own experience. They realise better than anyone else what difference such an accessible app can make in an emergency situation. We can only have respect for these girls. They have succeeded in finding the time and developing the technology for this from their own environment. And it is so often a hostile environment that stubbornly tries to maintain this barbaric tradition.”
According to Kanko, we in the West often do not realise enough how hard it is to go against one’s own family or community. Certainly in Africa.
“For that reason too, this project deserves every possible support: these girls know better than anyone what millions of girls in Africa or elsewhere in the world need and what stands in their way. Thanks to this app, they can now take matters into their own hands in a crisis situation. A clear sign of hope for many potential victims. That is why this nomination is so important: the Sakharov prize can give a huge boost to the emancipation of a huge number of girls and encourage similar initiatives.”
Worldwide up to three million girls are at risk of FGM, according to figures from the World Health Organization. Moreover, as many as 200 million girls and women today have to live with the often terrible consequences of FGM.
“In more and more countries, genital mutilation is today becoming ‘medicalised’ - with medical workers called in to cut girls, so that this horror seems to be more or less legitimised. This creates the impression that genital mutilation would no longer entail health risks, which is not the case. We have to put an end to female genital mutilation now.”