In the last three days I’ve gone through Waris Dirie’s three books – Desert Flower, Desert Dawn and Desert Children – not without struggle though. There were parts that brought me to tears and sent a shudder through my body.
Fashion model, UN ambassador and courageous spirit, Waris Dirie was born into a family of tribal desert nomads in Somalia. She told her story – enduring female circumcision at five years old; running away though the desert; being discovered by Terence Donovan and becoming a top fashion model – in her book, the worldwide best-seller, Desert Flower. In Desert Dawn she wrote about becoming an UN Special Ambassador against FGM (female genital mutilation) and returning to her family in Somalia.
Desert Children tells us how she and the journalist Corinna Milborn have investigated the practice of FGM in Europe – they estimate that up to 500,000 women and girls have undergone or are at risk of FGM. At the moment, France is the only country in which offenders are convicted and no European country officially recognises the threat of genital mutilation as a reason for asylum. Here are the voices of women who have felt emboldened by Waris Dirie’s courage. They speak out for the first time and move us to action.
Patrick and I have spent the last few hours talking about her story and the issues that she raises about FGM, culture, religion and being a woman. I’m not sure what I want to do with the knowledge that I’ve just acquired but I do know that I don’t want to just sit with it, so as a tiny first step I’m telling you about the books. Over the next few days I hope to post more about FGM.