New awareness-raising Tools to invite women who have undergone genital mutilation to come to the multidisciplinary centres
More than 23,000 girls and women who have undergone genital mutilation live in Belgium. To help them, two multidisciplinary hospital centres have been created in our country. Located at the Sint- Pieter Hospital in Brussels (CeMAViE centre) and at the UZGent (Vrouwenkliniek), they provide holistic care for women and girls who have undergone female genital mutilation: medical, surgical, sexological and psychological care. This care is fully reimbursed by the social security, including clitoral reconstruction. Ahead of the International Day of the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (6 February), a national campaign is being launched by GAMS Belgium to raise awareness about the existence of these centres and to invite women who suffered FGM to come forward.
According to UNICEF, at least 200 million girls and women in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia have undergone some form of genital mutilation: clitoridectomy, excision or infibulation.
“Genital mutilation concerns us too. Even here, the figures are alarming. Many girls and women suffer not only physical but also psychological consequences. It is essential that health care providers recognise the problem and, above all, respond appropriately. Referral to one of our two accredited centres, which are financed through the INAMI/RIZIV, is also necessary so that girls and women can be accompanied in an appropriate manner,” says Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke.
“Genital mutilation is a violation of women’s right to control their own bodies. It causes excruciating suffering and puts their lives at serious risk. I am proud that our country offers these women the opportunity to recover both physically and mentally through quality care that is 100% free. We are setting an example in Europe. I am pleased to fund this campaign which will help even more women affected by FGM“, says Sarah Schlitz, State Secretary for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunities and Diversity.
Some women sometimes wait years before consulting a doctor because they are not aware of the possibility of multidisciplinary follow-up. That is why this campaign is important. The testimonies of women who have received help from these centres show how worthwhile this treatment is.
“I had several sessions with the sexologist at the centre, she taught me to love myself, to really get to know myself as I am, to feel good and free. It’s me who decides, it’s my body, it’s my life,” says Sally, who was accompanied during several months at one of the multidisciplinary centres.
“Even if it will never be the same as before, I feel like I have reclaimed my clitoris, which had been taken away from me,” says Awa, who had reconstructive surgery.
A national campaign with new communication tools developed with and for women affected by FGM was launched on Friday 3 February 2023. This campaign, coordinated by GAMS Belgium, is funded by Sarah Schlitz via the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men. Both centres are funded by Minister Vandenbroucke and the FPS Public Health.
The tools which will be disseminated by GAMS Belgium, the IEWM and the FPS Public Health are the following:
- A video presenting multidisciplinary care at CeMAViE, CHU Saint-Pierre
- A video presenting multidisciplinary care at the Vrouwenkliniek, UZ Gent
- A multilingual animation (in Dutch, French, English, Arabic, Pular and Somali)
- Testimonials from women who have been accompanied in one of the accredited centres
- New brochures of the two accredited centres in Belgium (CeMAVIE in NL, FR, EN – Vrouwenkliniek in NL, FR, EN)
- The poster for the campaign (in FR, EN, NL)