Marie-Claire Kakpotia Moraldo
Diaspora of origin: Côte d’Ivoire
Country of residence: France
Marie Claire is the founder and director of Les Orchidées Rouges, an NGO fighting FGM by raising awareness, implementing prevention activities and supporting Survivors globally since 2017. The organisation has been growing since its foundation and this year, Les Orchidées Rouges opened another Institute in Côte d’Ivoire.
She started her organisation because, being a Survivor herself, FGM left her with many consequences. In 2016, she decided to undergo reconstructive surgery, which brought her many positive changes and well-being. Before finding a place where to get the surgery, she could not find a place in the South of France where she was able to discuss all her physical complications and her struggle with mental health and lack of confidence, or simply to get support .
“After my reconstructive surgery, I could not stand by and do nothing. I decided I was going to create an organisation to raise awareness, to contribute to the eradication of FGM, and to provide support and help other Survivors. Les Orchidées Rouges is the first organisation in France specialised in providing holistic care to FGM Survivors.”
The most difficult thing was to develop connections and to find organisations who wanted to collaborate with her. She noticed that in France, like in many other European countries, Survivors are just used for testimonies, to show how they are “miserable” and to feed the narrative of Africans being “barbaric” and not as real agents of change and actors to end FGM.
“I had to show them that black women can create a serious organisation and implement successful projects. I am proud to say that Les Orchidées Rouges is a socio-medical-psychological Institute created by an FGM Survivor who is not a doctor. I do not need to be a doctor, I just have to work with doctors, psychologists, social workers and lawyers and provide a high-quality support service for Survivors.”
After many years of considering white people the only “activists” and “experts” on FGM, and members of FGM-affected communities only as the receiving end of projects, she believes that this limits their access to and presence in anti-FGM organisations. In addition, it impacted their funding opportunities, as they are not seen as professional as white-led organisations. Further, during her life as an activist, she witnessed a lot of racist and discriminatory behaviour because she was only seen as a Black woman and a Survivor. Marie-Claire is convinced of the opposite:
“I witnessed a lot of racist and discriminatory behaviour against me for being who I am. Yet, being a black woman and a Survivor is actually my strength! I decided that this is my strength, it is not my weakness and I will continue moving forward because it is my long-life mission, and I am committed to end FGM!”