Clitoraid partners with 'Safe Hands for Girls' to provide clitoral repair surgery in the Gambia

February 02 2016, category: Press Releases
LAS VEGAS, Feb. 6 – Clitoraid, an international, U.S.-based humanitarian organization that provides clitoral repair surgery for survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM), today announced its new partnership with the Gambian NGO 'Safe Hands for Girls.'

“As the world celebrates Zero Tolerance Day for FGM, we’re so very honored that Jaha Dukureh, head of Safe Hands for girls, has asked us to partner with her organization,” said Nadine Gary, director of communications for Clitoraid.
“We’ll now be working together to provide medical relief for FGM survivors by offering clitoral restorative surgery in the Gambia.”

Gary said Dukureh was born in the Gambia, where she endured genital mutilation as a child. She later became a celebrated FGM activist in her country and was nominated to be its Woman of the Year in 2015.

“Two months ago, her fight against FGM led to the passing of a historical bill banning FGM in the Gambia,” Gary said.
"And over the holidays, while Jaha was recovering from her own clitoral repair surgery in San Francisco, she received official papers from the Gambian government granting her the land on which to build an FGM medical center. She was told that the Gambian president had personally selected it!"

Gary said Clitoraid’s volunteers, including Clitoraid's lead surgeon Dr. Marci Bowers, who operated on Dukureh, are looking forward to the joint venture.

“This is a life-saving, life-changing humanitarian joint mission, one that is supported by the government of the Gambia, and we hope it will inspire the newly elected president of Burkina Faso to have his health minister issue the permit for Clitoraid's hospital to finally open in Bobo Dioulasso,” Gary said. “Our brand new, state-of-the-art medical facility has remained closed for 2 years while thousands of FGM survivors desperately await this life-saving, life-changing humanitarian treatment.”

"An End To FGM In Our Lifetime " Keynote address from Dr. Marci Bowers at the Walk to end FGM in Washington DC on Oct. 31

October 31 2015, category: International NEWS
Dr. Marci Bowers, Clitoraid's volunteer surgeon was the keynote speaker at the Walk to End FGM in Washington DC, Saturday Oct 31 hosted by the Global Women P.E.A.C.E. Foundation . In the past eight year, Dr. Bowers, a renowned gender reassignment surgeon in San Francisco, CA has been surgically restoring the clitoris of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) victims both in the US and in Burkina Faso, Africa. Here is the content of her address

An End to FGM in Our Lifetime

I am incredibly honored to be here as your speaker today. When I say honored, I do so sincerely because I am an outsider, an onlooker, a woman of privilege, a surgeon, an activist, a western educated caucasion woman. And yet you have invited me and I am truly humbled. I uniquely value my own womanhood---because it also came with struggle, if you know anything about my personal history--- and so, I suppose, it gives me special purpose to address this problem of FGM.

As a gynecologist and physician who has spent the past 25 years in women’s healthcare, I have been fortunate to have acquired additional surgical skills that allow me to create genitalia for transgender men and women. In my practice near
San Francisco, we--- literally--- deconstruct and reconstruct genitalia for this unique transgender population. So it was not surprising that in 2007, when Nadine Gary, the International Director of Clitoraid, approached me to learn a reconstructive
technique being performed and pioneered in Paris by Dr. Pierre Foldes----to restore clitoral sensation ----not simply defibulation but sensation----for women who had been genitally mutilated, I had no hesitation.

Civil rights activist Rosa Parks said, “never be fearful about what you are doing when what you are doing is right”. I knew immediately that this was right. I heard about threats to Dr. Foldes but had no fear. I heard about backlash, scorn, and skepticism from colleagues ----but was not afraid.

I was certain that a chance to restore sexual feeling for FGM survivors was important. I knew that the victims of FGM could not be happy with reduced or absent sexual sensation. I could see the misery from victims who had suffered painful sexual encounter after painful sexual encounter-----wanting to but unable to enjoy. I cared for the complications of FGM: the bladder infections, the cysts of trapped fluids, the obstructed labors. In Paris, I met a girl whose identical twin sister had died at 8 years old----while undergoing FGM together.

And I knew of the lies of the cutters who benefitted economically by cutting, who knew the lies of FGM---but kept on cutting because cutting fed the families, ironically, of the cutters. I came to understand the celebration of FGM---as a ritual, as a coming of age, as tradition.

But also I came to appreciate the sense of sexual pleasure as one of the basic human senses----as important as sight, smell, hearing, taste or touch. Imagine if there were a surgery invented to restore sight to a blind man or smell to a girl who had never smelt a rose or the aroma of a sautéed onion. I agreed that FGM was indeed a human rights violation. There was no question----human rights had been and were being taken from these women and girls----directly as a result of FGM.

When I reviewed Dr. Foldes’ so-called ‘clitoroplasty’ and came to Paris to view the surgery itself, I knew instantly that it had validity. The surgery worked! The clitoris was not removed fully in FGM----it can’t be. Never. Why? Because the clitoris is much larger than any of us had ever been told---even gynecologists.

The damage caused by FGM----among so many damages---was the obscuring of the clitoris by scar tissue. But the clitoris was large----like an iceberg, I thought---and so was merely buried beneath scar tissue as a primary result of FGM. In reconstruction, we ALWAYS find the clitoris. It is always there. Always.

So the surgery is designed to expose what remains of the clitoris, to free it of scar tissue and to bring it to the surface of the skin.Later, when I spoke to women who had been reconstructed by dr. Foldes and later, myself, they had feeling….down there. Sometimes it was scary. Sometimes, there were other issues that surfaced. Occasionally, the surgery did not work as planned. But many reported orgasm for the first time ---in their lives. The surgery worked. It was not a perfect surgery but it worked. There were risks of surgery but it worked.

Overwhelmingly. It worked. And in 2013 when Dr. Foldes published his study in the British journal, Lancet---of nearly 3000 women who had been reconstructed, the scientific community had proof that it worked. Moreover, the reconstructive surgery
that we and others now perform around the world----is done free of charge. In many cases, we are also able to get insurance coverage. So the surgery gives hope to victims. It gives us control over identities that feel lost, over bodies that seem
incomplete, over relationships that could not flourish.

But surgery is not the answer. Surgery should not be the answer. Surgery should not be necessary. Surgery can never fully regain what has been lost. By FGM.And so, what I hope to do in these short words, is to construct an approach, to inspire a plan, to stimulate optimism that will result in an end to FGM in our lifetimes.

And I truly do believe, by the survivors who speak out, by the cutters who no longer cut, by the men who value the sexuality of their wives and lovers, by the parents who say no, by the media companies and news organization who continue to report our stories despite editors who say “too touchy”, “too controversial”, “too likely to offend” or , simply, “no”---that we are nearing an end to FGM.

And for that reason, for so many reasons, I know that what I am doing is right. And that for all of us to do what we are doing here today…that this gathering of amazing people … right.

I have no fear. WE have no fear. WE are standing up against FGM. WE are talking about FGM. By doing so, WE are taking action against FGM. WE are doing what is right.

I will conclude by saying that going forward what is needed is for us to further tell our stories. Poet Maya Angelou wrote, “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”. Tell your stories. Educate the world. Teach these doctors
who, when encountering an FGM victim, call to their colleagues as though FGM bodies were rare, circus animals to be gawked over. Teach them that there are surgeries to correct this problem and that there is training available to learn how to
fix this problem. And that these doctors need to recognize this problem, be educated about this problem and address this problem with certainty and with calm.

Secondly, we need to talk to our parents and our relatives here and where FGM is still being practiced. We need to be honest about our experiences, about our pain, about our loss, about our fears----so that slowly, surely, cutters will no longer cut. Respect the tradition but reject the practice of FGM.

And I will leave you with the words of Eleanor Roosevelt who once said, “You must [finally] do the thing you think you cannot do”.

Clitoraid's volunteer surgeon to speak at the Walk to End FGM in Washington DC, endorsed by Governor Hogan of Maryland

October 30 2015, category: Press Releases
Washington DC, Friday Oct 30 - Dr. Marci Bowers, Clitoraid's volunteer surgeon will be the keynote speaker at the Walk to End FGM in Washington DC, Saturday Oct 31 hosted by the Global Women P.E.A.C.E. Foundation . In the past eight year, Dr. Bowers, a renowned gender reassignment surgeon in San Francisco, CA has been surgically restoring the clitoris of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) victims both in the US and in Burkina Faso, Africa.

The Walk to End FGM has been endorsed by Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland who stated in writing: “Thank you for your efforts to raise awareness for and to help prevent this horrible trend. It is my hope that this year’s Walk to End FGM will mark a milestone in both participation and donations raised so that you may continue this crucial work for years to come.”

The Walk also received Well Wishes from a number of U.S. State Governors. Calls were received from Texas Governor Greg Abbott, New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe and California Governor, Jerry Brown. Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Jay Inslee of Washington sent letters with “best wishes for a successful event”.

Female Genital Mutilation is a heinous and atrocious practice, which is the intentional removal of either part or all of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. According to current statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 513,000 girls are either at risk or are living with the consequences of FGM in the U.S.

The event will be hosted by Angela Peabody, president of Global Women P.E.A.C.E. Foundation whose organization will issue Recognition Awards to eleven deserving women at this year’s walk-A-thon.

Shelby Quast, Project Director for Equality Now will be among the guest speakers as well as three brave survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM). The President of the Guinean Women Association in the U.S. along with Miss Guinea are expected to be in attendance.

This second annual Walk to End FGM will take place Saturday, October 31, 2015 at 8:00am on the National Mall in Washington, D.C at the corner of Constitution Avenue and 15th Street, NW. The proceeds from the walk-A-thon will benefit The Global Woman SUPPORT CENTERS located in Washington, D.C. and Arlington, VA., serving survivors and at-risk girls of female genital mutilation (FGM). Special Media passes will be issued to members of the Media on location.

Speakers and Award Recipients will be available for interviews prior to, during or following the event.

Hundreds of women to protest in Burkina Faso, West Africa, demanding the opening of a hospital dedicated to FGM victims

August 13 2015, category: Press Releases
LAS VEGAS, Aug. 13 – For more than a year, a completed hospital dedicated to helping victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) has been sitting empty, awaiting final approval from the country’s health minister.

To no avail, according to the women languishing on its lengthy waiting list.

“The hospital is fully equipped, and it’s probably the most modern facility in the Bobo Dioulasso area,” said Nadine Gary, spokesperson for Clitoraid, the women’s rights association that financed the construction. “The health authority signed a convention with the local managing association, AVFE, back in 2006. It stated clearly that the new hospital would be dedicated to the region’s FGM victims, who need help desperately. But that same health authority now claims to have enough hospitals there already!”

Gary said the thousands of women still awaiting the long-anticipated opening of the facility emphatically disagree.

They’re about to make their displeasure known in a very visible way,” Gary said. “On Thursday, they’ll be in the streets of Bobo Dioulasso pleading for the governor to intervene. This opening has been delayed far too long.”


“Our file was in perfect order until March 2014, when a doctor started a defamation campaign against us,” explained Banemanie Traore, president of the local women’s association AVFE. “He claimed that the Raelian religion of some AVFE members is incompatible with running a hospital. But this same doctor charges $500 for the same services the new hospital would offer FGM victims for free.”

“Is this a matter of greed or of religious hatred?” Gary asked, and then went on to answer the question. “We assume it’s a combination of both factors that is tragically preventing so many women from having the free clitoral repair surgery we offer. Our hospital is ready for the operations that would remove pain endured by hundreds of thousands of women in this region. Yet the hospital remains closed no logical reason.”

It is the FGM victims who suffer most from this obstacle, Gary said.

“The overwhelming majority of FGM victims cannot afford to pay for the surgery we’re offering for free,” she declared. “That’s why we’ll continue our actions and demonstrations in Burkina Faso and abroad until the hospital is finally allowed to open.”

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