GWPF: You are a committed activist against female genital mutilation/cutting. Tell us how you became involved in this line of work.
Nadine Gary: It was in the early 2000s. My spiritual leader, Maitreya Rael, had just come back from a speaking engagement in West Africa where he heard at great length of the ravages FGM had (and still has) on the local women there. He was aware of prevention campaigns led by various world organizations but felt that something had to be done to help the women who were already cut. Around the same time, the work of French Urologist, Dr. Pierre Foldes who developed the clitoral restoration surgery appeared in the news and Maitreya Rael proposed the idea of building a humanitarian hospital in West Africa to offer this surgery. I joined the project soon after it began to take shape, wanting to do something to stop these gruesome mutilations and help heal FGM survivors. I was thrilled to volunteer for a humanitarian organization that wished to give women back both their dignity and sexual pleasure.
GWPF: You are the Head of Operations at Clitoraid, Inc. What exactly does the Head of Operations do at Clitoraid?
Nadine Gary: I am actually Director of Communications for Clitoraid. My volunteer position ensures a flow of communication among the different chapters set on the 5 continents where Clitoraid is represented as well as between doctors and patients.
GWPF: How do women in their post-FGM lives learn about the services Clitoraid offers?
Nadine Gary: They search on the internet and they easily find us, we are the only humanitarian organization in the world that openly and proudly offers clitoral restorative surgery to FGM survivors.
GWPF: If a woman is interested in having clitoral restoration done, what preparations are necessary?
Nadine Gary: There is no preparation necessary, she fills out an application and sends it back to us along with her gynecological report. An appointment will be made for a consultation with Dr. Bowers followed by the surgery date. At this point, in the US, Dr. Bowers has a waiting list of about 8 months.
GWPF: What does it cost to have clitoral restoration done at Clitoraid?
Nadine Gary: Dr. Bowers graciously volunteers her surgical skills. However, the medical cost is of $1,700 plus travel expenses to San Francisco, California where her clinic is located. Health insurance companies will usually reimburse patients for this procedure since it invariably alleviates their pain and suffering from this forceful childhood genital mutilation.
GWPF: Clitoraid built a special hospital in the West African country of Burkina Faso. Tell us more about that hospital and the services there.
Nadine Gary: Clitoraid built a modern, state-of-the-art, 17-room, surgical hospital located in Bobo Dioulasso about 400 miles from the capital, Ouagadougou. It was nicknamed the ‘Pleasure Hospital’ by the local women. Once it opens, it will offer clitoral repair surgery free of charge, OBGYN care, psychological and sex therapy to FGM survivors and women in general as well as health care educational conferences for women and girls. In March of 2014, an American humanitarian medical delegation of 3 doctors and 2 nurses led by Dr. Bowers came to Bobo to inaugurate the hospital where Burkina Faso’s First Lady was to be the guest of honor. They were to perform the very first surgeries in the hospital. Eighty-two FGM survivors had traveled from surrounding countries, from villages in the countryside, sometimes days away. Some had traveled in the most precarious conditions to be able to have access to their clitoral restorative surgery to finally be pain free and be “complete women” again. Unfortunately, a greedy, Burkinabe doctor who had been performing the same surgeries at a stiff price used his influence with the President of Burkina Faso to stop our operation literally in its track. Our medical delegation was still able to operate on 38 patients at a neighboring clinic before their licenses were revoked by the Burkina Faso Health Ministry. Clitoraid’s hospital has remained closed for the past 2 years. We sincerely hope that the newly elected president shows infinitely more compassion for the women of his country than his predecessor, Blaise Compaore who ruled “democratically” for 28 years while giving in to greed, discrimination and perhaps worse…
GWPF: How many women have undergone clitoral restoration to date through Clitoraid?
Nadine Gary: There are more than 250 women.
GWPF: We just observed the U.N. adopted International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM last Saturday. What ideas would you offer for observances of this day in the future?
Nadine Gary: At our Pleasure Hospital in Burkina Faso, on Feb 6, FGM survivors and many local women gathered to attend festivities and empowering conferences and to voice their anger at the government. On Feb 6, Clitoraid also invited people around the world to meditate to end FGM and bring respite to countless, anonymous little girls whose genitals may have just been cut somewhere in the world. At Clitoraid, Feb 6 is every day because we receive letters from FGM victims on a daily basis.
GWPF: Where do you see Clitoraid in five years?
Nadine Gary: We just partnered with Safe Heads for Girls in the Gambia (see press release link: http://www.clitoraid.org/news.php?extend.185). We hope to be able to establish more partnerships with NGO’s in Western countries, sub-Sahara Africa, the Middle East and Indonesia and be able to train surgeons in other places and offer the rehabilitating surgery. For instance, we’ve had many Kenyan women writing to us seeking surgical help but they are unable to afford the journey to the US or France. It would be great to have a surgeon in East Africa.
GWPF: If you could change the way women and girls are treated in the world, what is the one thing you would change?
Nadine Gary: The reason why FGM occurs is because women are bullied into deep shame and guilt in regards to their bodies and sexual pleasure because of patriarchal macho values. Guilt and shame cripple women’s life force, and they never fully blossom. If the 20th century was about women earning their equal place in society through the right to vote, the right to work for equal pay, the 21st century is about women becoming completely empowered in their own bodies, in their own femininity, in their own sensuality and sexuality, free of guilt and shame.
I think that Clitoraid plays an important role in this formidable revolution for it is crucial for humanity that women be fully empowered in their minds and bodies. Our annual Clitoris Awareness month in May brings such message to all women worldwide.
GWPF: What advice would you give women and girls about womanhood?
Nadine Gary: Women, there is nothing indecent about your clitoris, about your body, or your sexual pleasure! As Dr. Betty Dodson, renowned sexologist teaches, love yourselves unconditionally, and embrace yourself proudly and completely. Only then, will your womanhood, the magnificent rose inside you be fully revealed to you.
GWPF: What do you want our supporters reading this Exclusive to know about Nadine Gary and Clitoraid?
Nadine Gary: In essence, my true name is not “Nadine Gary”; my true name is “Human Being”. I am but one woman cell in the tapestry of our humanity. Yet, as such, I have a responsibility toward the well-being of our beautiful human family and even toward its survival if it becomes threatened like it is now. Women are the care givers, the care takers, they must heal each other, support each other because the vital role of women cannot be emphasized enough at this moment in history. I feel a calling to be part of this exhilarating mission.
To me, Clitoraid is a marvelous venue in this regard. It offers powerful tools to heal women in their sexuality and self-esteem. It is there for those who have suffered from Genital Mutilation but also for all those who have been the victims of “Cultural Mutilation”, basically all of us! Clitoraid can nurse women back to full empowerment and in turn aid our world through this dangerous transition to finally reach a sustainably peaceful and humane future.
Coming Up in Next Week’s Edition: We will hear from renowned surgeon, Dr. Marci Bowers in an exclusive. Remember to tune in for next week’s Exclusive!