BERLIN, GERMANY (SEPTEMBER 11, 2013) (REUTERS) - Somali actress, model and human rights campaigner Waris Dirie was in the German capital on Wednesday (September 11) to open Europe's first clinic to treat victims of female genital mutilation (FGM).
The 'Desert Flower Centre' is situated at a hospital in the southern Berlin district ofZehlendorf and will offer medical treatment to victims of FGM but also plastic surgery, as well as psychosocial therapy and counselling.
The centre is co-funded by the Desert Flower Foundation, which seeks to end FGM by raising public awareness and offering support to victims.
"When it happened I was with three girls. Two bigger ones and they make first to them and I was standing and watching on the corner. I remember a little, when the girl, she is bleeding. After they make them sleep, come to me and want to cut me. I run, I'm little and I run and they catch me, after that I don't remember. No pain, I don't know, I am faint or I don't know what happened. I don't remember nothing. It's crazy," she told Reuters.
But still Demisse remains positive about her upcoming surgery.
"Yes, tomorrow it will be an operation. I come for this. When I was a little girl I was circumcised and because of that I want to reconstruct it back. Yes," she said.
The World Health Organization estimates that about 140 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation. Campaigners liken the psychological effects of female genital mutilation to those of rape.
Female genital mutilation - the partial or total removal of external female genitalia - is prevalent in 28 African countries and parts of the Middle East and Asia, notablyYemen, Iraqi Kurdistan and Indonesia.
It is carried out for cultural, religious and social reasons and is also known as female circumcision.
Some practitioners believe female genital mutilation will prevent sex before marriage and promiscuity afterwards, others say it is part of preparing a girl for womanhood and is hygienic. In reality it causes bleeding, shock, cysts and infertility, as well as severe psychological effects.
Female genital mutilation is also found in industrialised countries among some immigrant populations. Countries where the practice is near universal includeSomalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Mali and Guinea.
Dr Roland Scherer, who will be the head surgeon at the centre, said it was the mix of publicity and expertise at the clinic which was the key to success.
"And so it is very good to combine these two things, making awareness but also a real and very pragmatic way to help, and this was maybe the lack in the past, because Waris Dirie was doing a lot about political issues, but had no real medical partner," he said.
Dirie, who is the U.N Special Ambassador for the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, was visibly moved after watching a video about victims of FGM during the opening event, a tradition which she also experienced as a child.
Speaking to the audience, she expressed her disgust that such practices are still ongoing.
"We marry all mutilated women and there's nothing, no joy. We watch these women suffer, we suffer when we make love, they suffer when they are giving birth, they suffer all this. I don't understand where in the name of God, whoever made this up, was the most cruel human being who could exist on the planet but the worst part is, in such a day, this still goes on," she said.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in December 2012 urging countries to ban the practice of FGM calling it an "irreparable, irreversible abuse," that threatens about three million girls annually.