Somali actress, model and human rights campaigner Waris Dirie has opened a clinic in Germany which will treat victims of female genital mutilation (FGM), offering both reconstructive surgery and psychological help.
The clinic, which is the first in Europe, has been set up inside the Waldfriede Hospital in Berlin.
It is headed by French gynaecological surgeon Roland Scherer, who has already carried out reconstructive surgery on around 5,000 women.
The first patients have already arrived at the clinic. One of them, 34-year-old Senait Demisse from Ethiopia, told a harrowing story of how she was mutilated: “When it happened I was with three other girls. There were two older ones and they did it to them first. I was standing and watching on the corner. I only remember a bit, when the girl was bleeding. And I ran away but they caught me, and after that I don’t remember anything. I must have fainted or something.”
The Desert Flower Foundation, named after Dirie’s autobiography, plans to open more medical centres to treat victims of FGM next year in Europe, Africa, Asia and the US.
FGM is still widely practised in 28 countries across Africa, Asia, the Middle East as well as within immigrant communities in other countries.
Waris Dirie, who is the United Nations Special Ambassador for the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, explained why the clinic is needed: “We watch these women suffer, they suffer when they make love, they suffer when they are giving birth, they suffer all this. I don’t understand why in the name of God… Whoever made this up was the most cruel human being who ever existed on the planet. But the worst part is that even today, this still goes on.”
Worldwide, around 140 million women and girls are living with the effects of FGM and it is estimated that every day around 8,000 girls are still subjected to the procedure.