Waris Dirie is the beautiful daughter of Somalian nomadic people. She was named after a Desert Flower (Waris) which can bloom in the harsh terrain and climate.
Waris is now a mother, a human rights activist, a former supermodel and an author who has received numerous awards for her dedication and work in the fight against female genital mutilation.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure whereby the female genitals are partially or wholly removed for the purpose of inhibiting a woman's sexual feelings.
The 'operation' is often carried out on girls between the ages of four and eight, and in recent times it's increasingly performed on babies only weeks or months old or in some cases only days old. The procedure is usually performed without anaesthetic using implements such as knives, scissors, razor blades or shards of broken glass and often under dangerously unhygenic conditions. Ironically (and very sadly) it's often performed by women such as midwives, healers and professional circumcisers.
At the age of just five, Waris herself was forced to undergo this horrendous procedure and FGM is practiced by both Christians and Moslems in many countries of the world today. According to United Nations records more than 8,000 girls are subjected to this atrocity every day. After being forced into marriage at the age of 13 - to a man old enough to be her grandfather - Waris fled her homeland and eventually arrived in London and initially worked as a housemaid. When Waris was 18 she was spotted by Terence Donovan, a leading British photographer, and embarked on a very successful modelling career. She appeared in the James Bond film The Living Daylights which starred Timothy Dalton.
Waris was appointed as a UN Special Ambassador for the elimination of FGM in 1996, by Kofi Annan, and has travelled the world extensively gaining support for this important issue and raising funds for the UN. In 2002, Waris founded her own organisation, the Waris Dirie Foundation, to support her work again FGM and in 2010 the foundation was renamed the Desert Flower Foundation.
The Desert Flower Foundation seeks to end this atrocity by raising awareness, and you can find out more about the foundation on their website.