WARIS DIRIE

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Waris Dirie grew up in a nomadic family in the Somali Desert where she was the victim of genital mutilation at the age of five years old. 

The practice of female genital mutilation, a procedure that usually involves cutting off the clitoris and some of the labia, is considered to be a symbol of purity and a sign of commitment to a future husband over a desire for sexual pleasure. In severe cases, the remaining outer labia are sewn together, often without an aesthetic, and only reopened after marriage, to "protect" a girl's virginity.

At 13 years old, she learned that she was to be married to a 60 year old man, after which she escaped to London and began supporting herself as a housekeeper and by working at McDonalds. 

When she was 18 years old, she was discovered by a fashion photographer and became one of the first African supermodels to receive an exclusive agreement with Revlon. She moved to New York City and was soon on the front page of many major magazines. The BBC commissioned a story based on her life and she was interviewed by Barbara Walters about her early life. She revealed that she was a victim of genital mutilation in an interview with Marie Claire and spoke up for victims worldwide. 

In 1996, she was appointed as a goodwill ambassador in the fight against female genital mutilation by UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.


In 2002, she founded the Waris Dirie Foundation to campaign against genital mutilation, which was renamed the Desert Flower Foundation in 2010, broadening its approach to addressing inhumane practices like this through economic projects in Africa. 

When a movie was made about Waris’s life, she insisted that Safa Idriss Nour, the three year old girl playing her in the film, never be subjected to the same fate she had endured. Nour received a signed contract from her parents promising that they would never subject her to genital mutilation, despite the fact that 98% of women in her area were victims of exactly that. 

When Safa’s parents felt pressure to go back on their word, Waris brought them to Europe to show them the campaigning work her organization was doing, including reconstructive surgery for women who were victims of mutilation. The experience was a turning point for her parents, especially her father, who now works as an activist for the Desert Flower Foundation. Waris continues the very difficult battle of changing this tradition. Clearly, Waris Dirie is a boss ass bitch.

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