Desert Flower by Waris DirieWaris Dirie ran away from her oppressive life in the African desert when she was barely in her teens, illiterate and impoverished, with nothing to her name but a tattered shawl. She traveled alone across the dangerous Somali desert to Mogadishu—the first leg of a remarkable journey that would take her to London, where she worked as a house servant; then to nearly every corner of the globe as an internationally renowned fashion model; and ultimately to New York City, where she became a human rights ambassador for the U.N. Desert Flower is her extraordinary story.
W aris Dirie is a woman on a mission, and she seems hell-bent on completing it. These days, she is in full-blown activist mode. Her journey to this stage in life, however, has been a long and winding road. It all began for Waris Dirie in the Somali desert. At age 5 she experienced FGM — a practice widely believed to be torturous and de-humanizing to women. It intends to ensure the woman will marry as a virgin, but in the process it robs them of any future sexual pleasure. Its horrific procedure also ends up psychologically damaging many women.
Currently living in Austria having founded the Desert Flower Foundation, which aims at ending FGM with a focus on Africa, she has four books and one film which tell the amazing story of her life. They detail her beginnings, her journey from Somalia to London and the becoming a supermodel. Her first novel has such an optimistic tone, with romanticised details about nomadic life — being able to smell when it would rain and the desert flowers appearing afterwards, running around with her siblings and having no walls to restrain her. That is, until one encounters the terrible restraints placed upon her for being female. The book makes no point about sexism until the end, but here are some of the hard facts:. When Dirie was just three, her sister bled to death after being circumcised; no one spoke of her death.
Get one month’s free unlimited access
Waris Dirie has travelled a long way from the Somali desert where she grew up as a goatherd. Living in Wales, the former model is now a UN women's rights ambassador. The Desert Flower talks to Patricia Deevy. A sinewy, angel-faced beauty in a white vest, she gets herself into knots because she has so much to say but not all the words to get it out. Last time she was home in Somalia, for only the second time since the late Seventies when she fled an arranged marriage at the age of about 12, she presented her beloved mother with a beautiful hand mirror as a gift. Her mother took a look at herself, saw that her youth was gone, and handed back the mirror, saying that she didn't want it.
Waris Dirie , born , Galcaio, Som. At about age 13 she ran away from home to avoid an arranged marriage with a much older man; she embarked on a long and treacherous journey that took her through the desert to Mogadishu and, from there, eventually to London to serve as a maid in the home of an uncle who was beginning a term as an ambassador. When his tenure ended, Dirie elected to stay in London illegally. She was illiterate, but she found work in the kitchen of a fast-food restaurant and a room in a facility run by the YMCA , and she took classes to learn to read and write English. In , at age 18, a woman on the street approached Dirie about modeling and directed her to the British photographer Terence Donovan. The photos he took launched her career. She went on to appear on the runways of Paris, Milan , and New York; in advertising campaigns for top beauty brands, including Revlon and Chanel; and in leading fashion magazines such as Elle , Glamour, and Vogue.
Waris Dirie, the model and activist, was five years old when her mother led her from their home in the remote Somali desert to meet a gypsy woman. She remembers her mother positioning her on a flat rock and giving her a tree root to chew on. She just had time to see the woman pull out a broken razor blade before her mother tied a scarf around her eyes. And then her world went black. It means nothing. Get The International Pack for free for your first 30 days for unlimited Smartphone and Tablet access. Already a member?