The End FGM European Network is an umbrella network of organizations based in 15 European countries that work on ending Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C). The Network strives to build bridges and cooperation with all relevant actors in the field, both in Europe and globally. It recognizes the importance of support services for FGM/C survivors, including clitoral reconstructive surgery. Over the past two decades, many surgeons have been trained to perform this operation, and several hospitals and clinics in Europe currently offer it. It has been estimated that between 7.500 - 10.000 women have undergone clitoral reconstruction surgery in Europe.
In November 2021, an expert meeting for clitoral reconstruction surgery practitioners, co-founded by the European Union, hosted by the End FGM European Network and co-organized & facilitated by Dr. Annemarie Middelburg, was held in Brussels. The aim was to provide a safe space for plastic surgeons and gynaecologists from different European countries to exchange ideas, expertise, and experiences; and to discuss the first steps towards a survivor-centered common Standard of Care.
The meeting was a historic event. For the first time, medical experts from across Europe gathered to discuss reconstructive surgery after FGM/C exclusively. Many topics were discussed throughout the event: surgical techniques, national health insurance coverage, patient selection, expectation management, multi-disciplinary care across European countries, overcoming language barriers, aftercare/follow-up optimization, and (inter)national guidelines.
One of the most valuable conclusions was that, despite the existing biases, a new way of thinking is emerging, offering female FGM/C survivors more choices. It’s essential for those involved in the topic to truly grasp what women seeking the surgery want, feel and need so that survivor-centered care can provide more relevant assistance and support to these women. All experts showed interest in establishing a long-term expert group and in the possibility of producing a consensus document that gathers professional opinions and recommendations. In addition, conducting collaborative research (multi-center studies), referrals, and second opinions, as well as developing good quality learning materials, were discussed as potential next steps.