Adopt a clitoris!

This has got to be the greatest fundraising slogan of all time. That’s one of many superlatives that can be applied to an amazing organization, funded by the strangest source, engaged in a most poignant quest.

The organization is Clitoraid and the name was chosen for accuracy, not shock value. Clitoraid raises money to pay for reconstructive surgery on women who have undergone female genital mutilation. The procedure was pioneered by a most extraordinary humanitarian, Dr. Pierre Foldes. According to a profile in the New Scotsman:

Dr Foldes first encountered the traumatic effects of excision 25 years ago … in Burkina Faso, West Africa.

“Some women came to me complaining of scarring which was very painful for them every time they moved,” he recalls. “A special type of scar tissue called a keloid can develop on black skin and in these cases it grows hard and thick and attaches itself to the pubic bone. The women asked me if I could do something about it. While I was operating I began to do some reconstruction surgery on the vagina and labia as well as clearing scar tissue.”

The surgery had to be carried out secretly because of death threats from community members. Later, when it became known he was continuing his operations in France, the death threats continued. “The police take them very seriously,” he says, “but I won’t let them stop me doing this.” …

Foldes trains other surgeons to perform the procedure. Dr. Marci Bowers had 20 years of experience as a reconstructive surgeon before she journeyed to Paris to learn Foldes’ technique. She now performs the surgery in Trinidad, CO.

The location has special significance. Trinidad is known as the “sex-change capital” of the world, and Dr. Bowers herself was born male and underwent sex reassignment surgery to become a woman 11 years ago. Like her mentor, she charges nothing for the delicate and complex surgery and the hospital caps its fees at $1700. According to Bowers: “As Dr. Foldes has said, you cannot charge money to reverse a crime against humanity,” she says. “Sexuality is a right.”

Newsweek described Dr. Bowers operating on a patient named Sila:

Dr. Bowers cut away the thick scar tissue that had formed over Sila’s wound and had obscured the remains of her clitoris. She then scraped away layers of a black, sooty material—the decades-old remnants of the ash poultice the local women had used to stop the bleeding. It had caused a low-grade infection that still hadn’t healed—one reason Sila was always in pain… The root of the clitoris, which extends several centimeters beneath the surface of a woman’s skin, is much larger than … ever suspected. Bowers exposed the remaining flesh of the organ and drew it out, securing it in place with delicate stitches that eventually dissolve. Finally, Bowers also did some cosmetic work to restore the appearance of Sila’s labia.

In France, the surgery is covered by the national health surface, but insurers in the US have balked at paying for the procedure. For some women, even $1700 is too much to pay. Enter Clitoraid.

The organization is managed and funded by the Raelian movement described by Newsweek as “the pleasure-promoting “UFO religion” whose members believe life on Earth was created by a race of advanced aliens and who emphasize human sexuality.” They have concentrated their primary effort in building and running a hospital in Burkina Faso dedicated to surgical repair of female genital mutilation. In addition Clitoraid provides financial assistance to patients and funds the training of doctors like Marci Bowers.

According to the Clitoraid website:

The goal of Clitoraid’s “Adopt a Clitoris” program is to create real, long lasting changes for women who have been forced to experience clitoral excision or genital mutilation against their will… The procedure takes 6 weeks for a woman to completely heal, with sexual pleasure and genetic normality being the end result.

Most of the women in Burkina Faso cannot imagine having the money for such an operation. For most of them, it would be like spending two year’s salary!

Clitoraid is committed to provide these operations for free to as many women as possible.

The results are extraordinary:

A California nurse, Ngozi, who was circumcised as a newborn in Nigeria and also had her labia entirely cut away, came to Bowers in August. She is already feeling results, she tells NEWSWEEK. “Before, I would look at my textbook and look at myself and they were two different things. I wasn’t even human.” Bowers performed not only the clitoral operation but also plastic surgery to create labia for Ngozi, 34. “Now when I look at myself I feel like a woman,” says Ngozi, who says she has even experienced orgasms for the first time in her life. “It’s beautiful, I just love it, it feels like you’re melting. Before it irritated me when my husband tried to touch me, now I reach out to him.”

To learn more about Clitoraid or to adopt a clitoris visit the website at Clitoraid.org.

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