Waris Dirie is an extraordinary woman and important figure in the fight against FGM (female genital mutilation). Waris, a Somali model activist, published her first book Desert Flower in 1999. Desert flower is the meaning of Waris Dirie’s name, and that first book was about her own story: Waris was cut at the age of five, sold in marriage at thirteen, but eventually went on to become a model, and at the age of thirty joined the UN as a spokeswoman against FGM.
Saving Safa is Waris’ new book about a young girl, little Safa from Djibouti, who was chosen to play Waris in a film. It was a role that changed and saved her life when, a few years later, the young actress was at risk of being cut – the model flew out to Djbouti to save her. The book also details Waris Dirie’s establishment of the Desert Flower Foundation, a charity which is fighting to save the lives of one million girls from FGM.
The publication of Saving Safa is timely in light of recent changes in the law on FGM. The fight that Waris began, and continues, has resulted in new legislation in Britain:
Thanks to the tireless work of Waris Dirie, FGM is now being given the attention it needs as an important issue affecting young British women. The number of young FGM campaigners has risen and the debate has changed. Today British activists such as Nimko Ali, Leyla Hussein and Hibo Wardere are leading the charge.
Here is an open letter from Waris on how to get involved in the fight:
My name is Waris Dirie and I am from Somalia. In Somali my name means “Desert Flower”. I grew up in the desert and suffered female genital mutilation as a little girl. I almost died from blood loss, shock and infection after this cruel torture.
Even though I was a little girl, I knew that this was very wrong and I decided to fight against this barbaric crime later in life. I did not know when, where and how . . . when I was thirteen years old, my father tried to sell me for five camels to a man who could have been my grandfather. I escaped from this forced marriage and ended up in London in the early 1980s.
By chance a famous British photographer, Terence Donovan, discovered me as a model while I was working as a cleaning lady at the McDonald’s restaurant. My career in the fashion industry took off and I became a famous model. On top of my career, living in New York City, I grabbed the chance to speak about my trauma. About the day that changed my life for ever. My mission began.
I wrote a book about my life, Desert Flower, which became an international bestseller and was made into a major feature film later.
The UN appointed me as a Special Ambassador in the fight against FGM and I founded the Desert Flower Foundation to raise awareness about FGM, a crime against innocent girls.
Desert Flower Foundation raises awareness about FGM, supports medical treatment to women affected by FGM, and saves little Desert Flowers from the brutal practice.
With the book Saving Safa: Rescuing a Little Girl from FGM I have launched an international campaign to save one million girls from FGM.
I will not win this fight alone.
I need your support, and the support of the whole world.
Please join me now: www.desertflowerfoundation.org