Five Kenyan students are among the contenders for the $51,000 Sakharov Prize, a top European rights award after they were nominated on Tuesday.
Stacy Owino, Cynthia Otieno, Purity Achieng, Mascrine Atieno and Ivy Akinyi – whose band name is the Restorers – were picked for developing an application to help girls deal with female genital mutilation.
They are the least storied of the contenders who include a Uighur scholar imprisoned in China since 2014 and a trio of Brazilian activists.
The 50,000-euro Sakharov Prize, set up in 1988 and named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, is awarded every year to individuals or organisations which have made “an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy”.
The European Parliament named Ilham Tohti – serving a life sentence on separatism charges for advocating the rights of Uighurs, a Muslim minority in China’s northwest Xinjiang region – on the shortlist for its Sakharov Prize.
Tohti scooped another award for his activism weeks ago despite opposition from China which views his global accolades as “supporting terrorism.”
From Brazil, murdered political activist Marielle Franco made the list jointly with tribal chief Raoni Metuktire, who campaigns against the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, and rights defender Claudelice Silva dos Santos.
Last month the Council of Europe awarded its Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize to Tohti for “giving the entire Uighur people a voice.”