- "During the auditions for my film Desert Flower in Djibouti, I discovered with my team, this little angel. A woman had brought her daughter to the audition and held Safa, the daughter of her neighbor on the arm. I have seen this girl and at that moment I saw myself as a small child in the Somali desert. I knew immediately that only this girl may play this role.
Our team quickly found Safa’s parents who lived desperately poor in the slums of Djibouti. Djibouti is one of the poorest countries in the world and half of the people, especially the women, are illiterate. The next day, in an interview with the parents, I found out that Safa had not yet been cut, but the parents planned to pay the circumciser from Safa’s fee. I was speechless for a few moments.
Then I suggested to the parents an agreement. “Safa remains safe and my Desert Flower Foundation will pay for Safa’s school and we will support your family until Safa’s 19th birthday. For this you have to sign a contract and you have to bring Safa regularly to a French hospital in Djibouti to ensure her integrity. The parents agreed. This was in December 2007.” - Waris Dirie (source)
For over 12 years, Waris Dirie has fought against female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide. At least 150 million women and girls are affected by this cruel practice, which continues to be performed in Africa, but also in Asia, Europe, America and Australia.
The Desert Flower Foundation seeks to end this crime by raising public awareness, creating networks, organizing events and educational programmes. The foundation also supports victims of FGM.
Waris Dirie wrote an autobiography 'Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad:
- Waris Dirie enduring female circumcision at the age of 5 and by the age of 12 was arranged to be married to a man in his 60’s. She ran away from her oppressive life in the African desert, 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; and during that time was discovered by photographer Terence Donovan. Her life took a turn for the better traveling 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.(synopsis)