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Surgery returns 'womanhood' to Kenya FGM survivors

STORY: At a hospital in Kenya's capital Nairobi, surgeons are preparing a patient for reconstructive surgery.

She is a survivor of female genital mutilation, or FGM, and requested anonymity.

"I was nine years old. I did not know about anything, I was just told that I will be taken for a, like something to make me a complete woman."

Instead, the police officer says she was left feeling incomplete.

That's why she was one of around 60 women who recently came forward for free clitoris reconstruction surgery.

"This surgery is very important to me because being a woman who has undergone FGM, I basically feel like I am incomplete. There are things that other girls enjoy that I don't. It has really put my esteem so down."

FGM is practiced in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

It involves the partial removal of the external or visible part of the clitoris.

U.S. surgeon Dr Marci Bowers was brought in by Clitoraid for the two-week surgery initiative.

She has operated on hundreds of Kenyan women during two previous visits.

She said the clitoris is around 11 centimeters long with much of it inside the body. She described FGM as like "cutting the tip of the iceberg".

"But, beneath the surface is the iceberg and so, what we do in our surgeries is bring the 'iceberg' or clitoral body to the surface so that it can be realized and sensate."

According to the United Nations, one in five Kenyan women and girls aged between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM.

Bowers said her patients most often describe the reconstruction as "life-changing" and say it has given them a chance to reclaim their womanhood.