By Elizabeth Kibor for EDAILY.
It was on Tuesday, May 9, when I met 43-year-old Esther* at the Karen Hospital, where she had gone for a clitoral reconstructive surgery.
Esther has lived for nearly three decades with the emotional and physical anguish thousands of female genital mutilation (FGM) victims go through since undergoing the cut – either forcefully or out of observing a cultural practice.
Her narration, which divulges how she was forced to undergo the cut, is harrowing; a memory she would want to erase from her mind and historical diary. She was only 14, when she was dragged into a female circumciser’s den; unknown to her, the procedure would leave her with regrets for nearly 29 years.
“I am a mother of three children. I remember how painful it was to deliver my first born child. In the subsequent births (of my second and third children), I opted for caesarean section,” she says.
Another experience that makes her feel incomplete as a woman is her “inability to satisfy her husband sexually”.
“It really hurts,” says Esther as a cloud of regret comes forth vividly.
The pain she experiences when bringing to birth a child, and the constant negative perception she has about her sexuality, has made her look for available solutions to the two ‘major’ problems; and in a bid to find the solutions, she travelled all the way from Rift Valley region to the capital, Nairobi to seek medical intervention.
“I am not always comfortable with my situation because I was forcefully circumcised,” she says.
“I underwent female genital mutilation when I was 14-years-old. I got to know about clitoral reconstructive surgery through the media in 2010. Internet has a lot of information. I searched online about the procedure and where it was done. Thankfully, I got to know about this surgeon, who performs clitoral reconstructive surgery. I wrote an email to the medical facility, based in California, where she worked.
“They returned my email, stating the medical charges that were required. It was expensive, given the medical and transport cost. However, later, they wrote a mail informing me that there was a hospital put up at the Burkina Faso to perform reconstructive surgery on FGM victims in Africa. I had been placed on the waiting list of those women slated to undergo the procedure.
“Before they could reach me, the hospital that had been opened in 2014, was closed. I lost hope,” recounted Esther.
But her state of hopelessness would fade in April 2017 – three years later – when she received a phone call from the Karen Hospital supervising surgeon, Dr. Marci Bowers, who told her that she could still undergo reconstructive surgery; and this time round, closer home – in Nairobi.
“She (Dr. Bowers) asked if I was still interested and of course I said yes,” said Esther.
On Tuesday, May 9, Esther underwent reconstructive surgery at the Karen Hospital and she cannot wait to fully heal and experience sexual pleasure – a school of thought she only hears via friends.
“The surgery helps restore the clitoris. I confirmed that from my colleagues who had undergone the procedure on Monday, May 8,” the upbeat Esther said prior to undergoing the procedure.
Now, with a smile restored on her face, she can narrate what, exactly, happened 29 years ago.
“I had gone to visit my sister, who was a teacher at a Narok school, when I was forcefully circumcised. I remember it was one of the December holidays; and young girls were slated to undergo the cut according to the local tradition.
“One of the nights, I was asleep when, two people knocked on the door of my room, asking for bed sheets. On opening, they forced me out and took me to a house which had other girls, who were set to undergo the cut. We were all circumcised. It has always haunted me! I was not willing.”