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Desert Flower to be released in Nigeria

8 Feb

From March 4th 2011, the movie Desert Flower will be shown in all major cinemas throughout Nigeria, a country where FGM continues to be widespread. Waris Dirie will travel to Nigeria to present the movie at a premiere in Lagos on March 3rd.

Below, please find the official press release on the movie’s release in Nigeria, including interesting information on FGM and the situation of women in Nigeria.

2011 marks the 100th Year Anniversary of the International Women’s Day (IWD), a day when the immense contributions and achievements of women are celebrated globally. The IWD Centenary Anniversary in Nigeria is a celebration of Our Women, opening the door to more opportunities and motivating women to greater participation in all spheres of life. As part of this celebration, Okhma Global Ltd proudly presents for screening for the first time in Nigeria, the incredibly dramatic and motivating movie – Desert Flower! It is the triumphant life-story of Waris Dirie, a Somalian nomad woman who underwent a most gruesome female circumcision at age 5, got sold into marriage at 13 but went on to become a famous New York supermodel and Bondgirl in the hit movie The Living Daylights. She was appointed by Kofi Annan as the United Nations Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and is now the African Union’s Ambassador of Peace and Security ( We will be celebrating this fantastic woman and women like her through this screening and inspiring others to greater success! A premiere and red-carpet event themed “To be a woman!” will hold in Lagos, Nigeria on the 3rd of March 2011 in Lagos. Ituen Basi, a top Nigerian Fashion designer, will also showcase her elegant works at the Premiere. The movie will hereafter open to the public in all major cinemas nationwide- 4th of March 2011.

Being a Woman in Africa – The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Women

Having done so much, there yet remains many barriers in the way of Women Everywhere especially in Africa. The five Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were created by the United Nations member States including Nigeria to drive for a higher quality of life for People Everywhere with targets to be achieved by all by 2015. Of the 5 MDGs, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) says Improving Maternal Health is the target lagging farthest behind. A sad implication of this is that ‘every day, more than 1,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth and of the hundreds of thousands of these women who die each year, 90% occur in Africa and Asia’. Complications in childbirth, especially in Africa, are strongly correlated with Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and obstetric fistula.

Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting

Female Genital Mutilation (also known as female circumcision), comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons (WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, 1997). It is “a violation of basic rights and a major lifelong risk to women’s health” including a violation of the principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex, the right to life when the procedure results in death and the right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment. According to health experts and UN records, it has no known medical or physiological benefits yet bears many risks to the health of women on which it is performed. Long term consequences include chronic pain, infections, decreased sexual enjoyment and post-traumatic stress disorder. Also, women who had undergone genital mutilation had significantly increased risks for adverse events during childbirth (WHO) and a striking incidence of higher death rates among babies born to such women than to uncircumcised women: 15% higher for those with Type I, 32% higher for those with Type II and 55% higher for those with Type III genital mutilation. The high incidence of postpartum haemorrhage, a life-threatening condition, is of particular concern where health services are weak or not easily accessible by women as is mostly the case in rural Nigeria/Africa. In the light of the risks and damaging effects of this practice, must one not now ask if it matters not that the procedure has permanent and potentially life-changing effects that violate the fundamental rights of the child on whom it is performed, especially as the free, informed and uncoerced consent of the child could not be said to have been given for the operation to go on (a direct contravention of the Convention on the Rights of the Child).

In Nigeria, the practice ranges from the partial removal of the clitoris with a knife or razor to the more radical infibulations: the sewing shut of the vaginal opening with the legs of the women/girls bound together for several days or weeks thereafter. The ritual is usually carried out far from any medical or sanitary setting and can cause dangerous bleeding, infections or development of scar tissue that leads to injury during childbirth or sexual intercourse later in life. Sometimes complications result in death. The incidence of FGM/C in Nigeria varies greatly across the country’s huge diversity of ethnic groups, from the Shuwa in the North to the Yoruba in the South. According to the 2003 Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey, over 60 per cent of Yoruba women in Nigeria have undergone the ritual. Some estimates put the incidence rate in Osun State as high as 90 per cent (UNFPA). In most places where it is practiced, it is largely regarded as a cultural norm to which conformance is an expected behaviour, making it hard to speak against, resist or eliminate without the risk of ostracism or alienation from/by the community.

The Movie

In spite of progress made in terms of legislations and policies and the reduction of this practice in some areas, prevalence remains high and there is an urgent need to intensify and expand efforts if female genital mutilation is to be eliminated within one generation.

The Movie Desert Flower throws light on these issues and effects, though Waris against all this odds, subjected to this gruesome act was able to soar and achieve a successful career.

However, she has consistently been an advocator for the sake of other women like her sisters who were not so lucky to have survived these activities and lost their lives. In March the event will host Waris Dirie in Lagos as she shares her story through her movie- DESERT FLOWER.

“I am very much looking forward to travelling to Africa once again to present the movie Desert Flower”, says Waris Dirie, who also attended the movie’s premiere in Addis Ababa / Ethiopia in 2010. “I wrote the book for the women of Africa and I want this movie to be shown all over Africa!”