Given the relentless Ebola crisis, a term is becoming increasingly familiar to English-language readers: MSF, the acronym for Medecins sans Frontières or Doctors without Borders. The admirable organization is mainly known for its intrepid intervention in medical catastrophes, but it deserves applause for another reason.
One of its founders, Bernard Kouchner – also, at one time, the Foreign Minister of France – penned these words: “Give pleasure back to women, emotions other than fear of violence, gratification beyond that available to … a baby machine.” Kouchner is naming the intention of Dr. Pierre Foldes.
In his introduction to Hubert Prolongeau’s Undoing FGM. Pierre Foldes, the Surgeon Who Restores the Clitoris, Kouchner offers a brief history. His friend the clinician “operates, and his medical research and surgical repair attract attention. People start to emulate him; the World Health Organization is interested. He publishes an impressive series of successes. In nearly 80% of cases, women no longer suffer after intervention. They regain elementary sensation. A great physician, he has innovated a common surgical procedure for magnificent humanitarian ends.”
The Clitoris Restoration Fund aims to make this treatment available to women whose health insurance doesn’t cover it.
The joy among those 4/5ths is openly expressed. And “in any case,” Prolongeau reminds us, “restoring the capacity for sexual pleasure is not surgery’s principal aim but rather recapturing [a] sentiment of wholeness, of physical integrity, by taking back what had been snatched.”
Frequently patients say, “Now I’m a woman.”
To bring this sense of fulfillment to as many sufferers as possible, Dr. Foldes appealed to French social security to pick up the bill. For French residents, he succeeded. Others in the Diaspora and, above all, in Africa, are lined up looking for relief.
How vast is their desire? The UK, presently a leader in the global fight to end FGM, has recently begun collecting statistics as part of its new Female Genital Mutilation Prevalence Dataset. As reported by The Desert Flower Foundation, in a single month (September 2014), 647 instances were newly identified by physicians when women sought treatment. Older cases numbered 1,279. The monthly data is published by the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) which plans, in 2015, to produce the annual report disaggregated according to age and type of mutilation.
The need for a comprehensive demographic survey of this type is pressing wherever FGM is practiced, and especially in the United States, home to the largest number of girls at risk.
Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Sini Sanuman/Healthy Tomorrow is partnering with UnCUT/VOICES Press, FORWARD-Germany, and the EuroNet-FGM in accepting tax-exempt donations to the Clitoris Restoration Fund. By publicizing the collection, these registered charities are raising awareness of both the crime of FGM and the hopes of those who have been subjected to it. In close collaboration with journalist Hilary Burrage in the UK, attorney Lorraine Koonce Farahmand in France, and the Institut génésique in St. Germain-en-Laye founded by Dr. Pierre Foldes and an inter-disciplinary team, the Clitoris Restoration Fund has already supported its first beneficiary whose operation took place on September 5, 2014. Understandably wishing to remain anonymous, she reports, however, that she is recovering well.
Sini Sanuman/Healthy Tomorrow is also notable for activities in Mali. Pioneers in an artistic approach to changing hearts and minds, for many years the group has engaged leading pop stars to broadcast on Africable, a cable station viewed in 10 countries by 20 million people. In “Takhoundi,” performed by Nayini Koné in Sarakolé, girls in ritual dress ascend a mountain clearly heading toward excision but rushing up after them are their long-gowned mothers intent on snatching their young from the exciser’s grasp. Kandia Kouyaté’s song “We Can Say ‘NO!’” ran on the same station in September 2014. The narrative features a passerby who intervenes to stop the cutting while the lyrics detail damage to health which the fortunate girl has escaped. These videos and more can be viewed on the website: StopExcision.net.
To raise money in support of these broadcasts, to help the group continue counseling victims of sexual violence at their Listening Center in Bamako’s District 1, and to ensure on-going conversations with influential preachers such as Ousmane Chérif Haidara, Healthy Tomorrow will hold a rug and Christmas tree sale on December 6 and 7 from 11 to 4 at Unity Church Somerville, at 6 William Street, on the corner with College Ave near Davis Square. Beautiful, fairly-traded rugs from Pakistan, Iran or Afghanistan or a Christmas tree are on sale at the group’s largest fund-raiser of the year. Volunteers to help are also sought.
You can make a tax-deductible donation to support Sini Sanuman/Healthy Tomorrow with a check to Healthy Tomorrow at 14 William St, Somerville, MA 02144 or donate on the website at http://goo.gl/gvEMCH.
To donate to the Clitoris Restoration Fund, simply note this clearly on your check.
The full HSCIC report is available from http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB15711[SL1]