Waris Dirie, the “dessert flower” as she translates her name into her native language, has managed to escape from her country of Somalia and tell all of us her unique story.
She was born in a Somali nomadic family. At the age of five, she had her genitals crippled, following a custom that allowed only women who had done it to marry. At age 13, her father wanted to exchange her for five camels and marry her with a 78-year-old shepherd. She left and after having walked barefoot for days in the desert she managed to reach Mogadishu and Somalia's ambassador in Great Britain. She went to London and stayed for many years in the embassy of Somalia, and after the embassy closed, due to the war in her country, she was sleeping on the street.
Her luck smiled when photographer Terence Donovan discovered her . It was not difficult to show her as a model, as the beauty of Waris was unparalleled. Shortly afterwards, she was photographed for the Pirelli calendar, and since then she culminated in the field of modeling in the 1990s, along with Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell.
She never managed to overcome the childhood trauma of her amputation and, by taking advantage of her glory and recognition, she spoke publicly at the UN General Assembly about the female mutilation and the primitive way in her country.
In her autobiography she descibed this process: "We went to a remote area, between shrubs. My mother sat on a rock and gave me to bite a root of a tree. The gypsy put her fingers in a betel baf and took a broken razor blade. She spat on her and wiped it in her skirt. After she cleaned it, she tied my eyes with a scarf in order not to see. The next thing I felt was cutting my flesh. I heard the biting sound of the blade sticking my skin over and over. My legs began to tremble uncontrollably. I prayed to finish quickly. And that's how it happened because I fainted."
The organisation Dirie is not the only woman to suffer this mutilation. Every day, 6,000 girls undergo the same torture without anyone complaining about an informal rule of Muslim religion.
The organisation Dirie through her sturggle soon became UN ambassador and, after abandoning her career as a model, she devoted herself to the fight against female mutilation. After the first Waris speech, 14 African states abolished female mutilation in 2007, but it still remains in many countries, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Indonesia but also applies to various communities of Muslim immigrants in America, Canada and Europe.
Even today, Dirie is struggling to raise awareness of female genital mutilation, and in 2002 she funded an Austrian-based foundation. In 2007, French President Nicolas Sarkozy awarded her with the Legion of Honor Medal and, recently, Pope John Paul II, awarded her with the "My Way" award.