Archive | January, 2012

Puntland (Somalia) enacted law against FGM

31 Jan

After Women’s groups in the Somali town of Galkayo, near the place of birth of Waris Dirie, was lobbying the authorities in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland to enact a law against FGM, the practice has been successfully banned.

Puntland takes stand against Female Genital Mutilation

Two decades of civil war have contributed to the negligence of women’s rights across the Somali region. Women continue to suffer from the tragedies of the war as well as from practices including FGM.

However, the government of Puntland enacted laws against Female Genital Mutilation in November 2011, a development that has been welcomed by human rights activists across the world. The new law came into effect after long discussions and eventual support by the traditional and religious leaders in addition to various scholars.

Participants discussing proposal to discourage FMG
Photo Credit: PDRC

To encourage these positive developments, Interpeace local partner Puntland Development Research Center (PDRC) hosted a two-day conference with leading women’s rights activists from across the region – Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya as well as from Somali Region: Somaliland, Puntland and South-Central Somalia.

The conference was organized by Puntland Ministry of Women Development and Family Affairs (MOWDAFA) and was held at PDRC’s Main conference hall in Garowe, Puntland. The conference focused on how to best approach policies around FGM.

Over 150 women and other concerned Somalis participated in the conference. They traveled from across Puntland, Somaliland, and South-Central Somalia. Those from the Somali diaspora in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti also attended.

Minister of Women and Familiy Affairs in Puntland Asha Gelle Dirie
Photo Credit: PDRC

As a persistent activist for women’s rights and family development, Ms. Asha Gelle Dirie, Puntland’s Minister of Women and Family Affairs organized the conference. The Transitional Federal Government’s Minister of Women Development, Ms. Maryan Aweys, officially opened the conference.

Among the dignitaries who participated in the conference were the First Lady of Puntland H.E. Abdurahman Faroole, the Vice President of Puntland Abdismed Ali Shire and Ms. Amina Abib who is a Goodwill Ambassador of the FGM eradication campaign. In her opening speech Ms. Abib expressed her joy to attend a conference focused on bringing an end to Female Genital Mutilation. The conference emphasized the need for Somali women to join forces with each other to end this practice.

The conference produced 9 proposals on how best to end FGM across Puntland and the Horn of Africa.

FGM influences Psychological Health of Girls

26 Jan

Research highlights Psychological Trauma of FGM/C 

14/01/2012 – A new study out of Iraq finds evidence to support the suspicion that girls who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting are prone to mental disorders and psychological trauma.

The study shows what many psychologists have long suspected but had little research to confirm: girls who have undergone (FGM/C) are prone to mental disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The research was conducted by Jan Ilhan Kizilhan of the University of Freiburg, an expert in psychotraumatology – a type of psychotherapy for people who have suffered extreme trauma. The results of his research were published in the April-June 2011 edition of the European Journal of Psychiatry.

His research from among a group of 79 circumcised girls if northern Iraq  found rates of PTSD at around 44 percent, depression at 34 percent, anxiety at 46 percent and mental disorders whose symptoms are unexplainable physical illnesses at around 37 percent.

The girls who were included in his study were between the ages of 8 and 14, and to the best of his knowledge had not suffered any other traumatic events beyond FGM/C.

These rates were up to seven times higher than among non-circumcised girls from the same region and were comparable to rates among people who suffered early childhood abuse.

The tradition of female genital mutilation, or FGM, has survived for centuries in this deeply traditional region of northern Iraq. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), FGM is the “partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.”

“The tragedy is that FGM is perpetuated by mothers, aunts and other women who love and want the best for their children,” said a report by international rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW).  The study added that such women see the practice as necessary for their daughters to grow up as “marriageable” and “respectable” members of society.

Estimates of the prevalence of FGM/C in Iraqi Kurdistan vary wildly depending on the province, but surveys have indicated the overall figure could be around 40 percent.

Kizihan stated that although the region is home to five million people, it has just 13 psychologists and only one with expertise in psychotherapy.

It is estimated that more than 100 million women and girls have been subjected to FGM/C worldwide, and in some societies it can signify a woman’s eligibility for marriage. In some instances, it is used to reduce sexual desire. In other cases, misguided medical or health beliefs are cited.

FGM not merely an African problem, high rates in the Middle East

24 Jan

FGM not merely an African problem; high rates in the Middle East

Read the Press Release by Stop FGM Kurdistan:

BEIRUT, 18 JANUARY 2012, The first conference ever on female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Middle East is currently taking place in Beirut, Lebanon, with participants from Iraqi Kurdistan, Central Iraq and Yemen with input from experts from Indonesia and Egypt. The groundbreaking event, organized by the non-governmental organizations Wadi and Hivos, is serving as a first common platform for experts and activists fighting FGM in the Middle East. Its purpose is to learn from each other, create a network and cooperation structure, and develop a coherent transnational strategy to eradicate FGM.

Until recently FGM was considered to be practiced mostly in African countries. Not much information is available about this practice in the Middle East. However, research, publications and various other evidence indicate that it is also practiced in Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Oman and Saudi Arabia. FGM is still very much a taboo issue in the Middle East. It is high time to break the silence about this gross violation of human and women’s rights.

No side issue

Politicians, the media, international organisations, most notably the UN, have since long recognized FGM in Africa and treated it as merely an African issue. Considering the astonishingly high FGM rates in the Middle East it is striking that the above mentioned actors are still treating the problem in the Middle East much as a side issue. The Beirut conference was set up in order to draw the world’s attention to this neglected fact and send a strong message that it is time for concerted action.

For instance, in the Beirut conference a physician from Southern Iraq presented evidence (interview recordings) in public which indicates FGM is also practiced in Central and South Iraq. The practice is a complete taboo for Iraqis and flatly denied by the Iraqi Central Government.

Muslim World

Most of the heavily affected countries in Asia are part of the Muslim World. Many Muslim religious leaders are playing a considerable role in the justification of the practice, however participants agreed that it should not be labeled a religious practice. In each country, religion, politics, the media and of course local communities themselves must be won for the cause to play a positive role in the eradication of FGM. Public awareness is as important as pressure on the respective governments to act.

The Beirut conference calls upon the people and governments of the countries in the Middle East and the international community to start addressing FGM, and notably:

– Request civil society organizations to provide data about FGM in their respective countries;

– Pressure governments of countries in the Middle East to take up FGM as gross human rights violation;

– Pressure governments from the Middle East to collect credible data and statistics about prevalence of FGM;

– Set up a regional network addressing FGM in the Middle East;

– Make FGM a core issue within UN policies active in countries in the Middle East where FGM is practiced;

– Request EU, UN and US to address FGM as a core issue within their foreign policies towards countries in the Middle East.

Background information on FGM (source: WHO):

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is often carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death. FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons and is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers.

For more information please contact:

Thomas Von der Osten-Sacken (Wadi) +49-15156906002 or thomasvdo

Jessie Hexspoor (Hivos) +31-641969050 or jhexspoor

FGM Film “Silent Scream” shortlisted for the ´Young Voice Award´ 2012

19 Jan
We are happy to announce that the 27 young film makers from Bristol involved in the production of the FGM film Silent Scream has been shortlisted (along with 2 other films) for ‘The Young Voice Award’ 2012 as part of the First Light Films award season. The ceremony will take place at the British Film Institue (home of the London Film Festival) on the Southbank, London on Monday March 5th where the winners from the various categories will be announced.

This year’s ‘Young Voice Award’ will be judged by the following members of the British film industry:

Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdiction, Revolutionary Road, Jarhead)
Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, Trainspotting)
Rebecca O’Brien (Sweet Sixteen, The Wind that Shakes the Barley)
Davis Heymen (Harry Potter series of films)

For more info:
 Your Desert Flower Foundation Team

Charity Event in Switzerland: “One day from women for women”

18 Jan

Special event from Esther Habermacher:

On 27th November 2011 the successful charity workshop “ONE DAY FROM WOMEN FOR WOMEN” was organized by Esther Habermacher ( at Switzerland. 1,000 CHF were collected through Yoga, Dance and Meditation and will be donated to the Desert Flower Foundation for their new project “TOGETHER FOR AFRICAN WOMEN”.

Thank you so much for your great support!

The Desert Flower Foundation

Waris Dirie und die  gesamte Desert Flower Foundation bedanken sich recht herzlich für die eingegangene Spende, diese kommt zur Gänze dem aktuellen Projekt TOGETHER FOR AFRICAN WOMEN zu Gute, welches Frauen aus den ärmsten Regionen Afrikas unterstützt.

Ein Event der besonderen Art von Esther Habermacher:

Esther Habermacher ( organisierte am 27.November 2011 den erfolgreichen Charity Workshop „EIN TAG VON FRAUEN FÜR FRAUEN“ in der Schweiz. 1,000 CHF wurden durch Yoga, Tanz und Meditation gesammelt und werden nun der Desert Flower Foundation für ihr neues Projekt zur Verfügung gestellt.

DANKE für die großartige Unterstützung!

Das Desert Flower Foundation Team

Girls and women in New Zealand ´at risk´ to undergo FGM

17 Jan

As published in the New Zealand Magazine:

An international study says “a growing number” of girls and young women living in immigrant communities in New Zealand are at risk of genital mutilation.

The practice – which involves the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons – is banned in New Zealand.

Any person who carries out the procedure, or orders it to be done to a dependant, may be imprisoned for up to seven years.

The Ministry of Health last year funded a series of workshops on the practice, with those present being told there was no evidence that the controversial female circumcision operations occurred in New Zealand.

It is a stance that is also shared by the NZ Female Genital Mutilation Education Programme – a community-based initiative partly set up in response to the rising number of women settling in New Zealand from countries that practise the procedure.

But a newly released United Nations report on a hoped-for global end to female genital mutilation states: “The practice is prevalent in 28 countries in Africa and in some countries in Asia and the Middle East.

“In addition, a growing number of women and girls among immigrant communities have been subjected to or are at risk of female genital mutilation in Australia and New Zealand.”

Under New Zealand law, it is illegal to send or make any arrangement for a child to be sent out of the country to have the practice performed, to assist or encourage any person in New Zealand to perform the procedure on a New Zealand citizen or a resident outside of the country and to convince or encourage any other New Zealand citizen or resident to go outside of New Zealand to have the procedure performed. The law was passed in 1996 and to date there have been no prosecutions.

The New Zealand FGM organisation says some female migrants from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Indonesian Muslims had undergone female circumcision before arriving in the country.

Somalia is among the countries that the procedure is most practised in. Thousands of Somalis have sought refuge in New Zealand since the early 1990s after the African nation was wracked by civil war.

Kenyan Authorities take action against FGM practitioners

13 Jan

Kenya belongs to those african countries where the FGM is widespread among  several Kenyan tribes. Despite the fact that this country has joined the Maputo Protocol, little has been done so far. However, change is coming as authorities started taking action against those who practice FGM.

Read the story as posted by Kenyan Newspaper The STANDARD:

Police have launched a manhunt for a chief and an elderly woman in Tana River County who subjected 10 underage girls to Female Genital Mutilation late last year.
The Kalakacha location chief is said to have allowed the girls, who included his seven-year-old daughter, to be subjected to the outlawed rite.
The chief ran away after he discovered that police were looking for him.
The woman being sought by police is aged 65 and is suspected to have conducted the rite.
Tana River DO George Kamweru said it was unfortunate that the incident took place under the supervision of the local chief who was expected to protect the children.
Kamweru said he had asked the Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation in the area to record a statement with the police for appropriate action to be taken against the chief.
On Wednesday, a group of women raided the home of the chief and found ten girls recuperating lying in a Manyatta.

My personal look back on the year 2011 / Jahresrückblick 2011

11 Jan

My persoal look back on the year 2011

First of all, I would like to thank all supporters of the Desert Flower Foundation and my Team. In 2011, we received a total of 11.249 emails, more than ever before. Victims of FGM, girls threatened by FGM, but also many many people offering their support and wanting to help contacted us this year.

The Desert Flower Foundation has supported 815 students from all over the world who gave presentations, wrote papers and theses on FGM. It is very important to me that students discuss FGM in their schools and universities. It is this generation of young people that will succeed in eradicating FGM for good.

More than 460 media outlets such as newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, websites and bloggers have requested and received information from the Desert Flower Foundation in 2011.

The release of „Desert Flower“ in Japan took place in the beginning of 2011. . In January 2011, the biggest women’s magazine in Slovakia, Eva Magazine published an interview as well as pictures that were taken during my stay in Bratislava. I am very happy with the pictures and I would like to thank my Slovakian publishers for the 50.000 sold copies of my books and the 100.000 movie tickets to Desert Flower that were sold! I would also like to thank the many many Slovakian supporters that came to see me during my stay in Bratislava.

January 2011 also saw the start of my campaign „Together for African Women“, together with the German company Mey Bodywear. This was my first shoot in underwear, and it certainly paid off – for the women in Africa: The campaign raised a total of 60.000 € for the projects of the Desert Flower Foundation in Ethiopia and Kenya. This money will be invested in job-related training, medical assistance and the development of the long-term cooperation with companies that provide qualified jobs for women in Africa. We will report on these projects regularly on our website and blog.

In 2011, the project with mey bodywear already secured jobs in Africa as we ordered handmade scarves from Ethiopia which were sold in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In 2012, the Desert Flower Foundation will cooperate with designers to produce our own collection of fair trade and ecologically sustainable scarves, bookmarks, T-shirts, and belts in Africa. From February 2012 on, you will hear more about this project on our website!

In March, Desert Flower was released in the US and received much praise from the US media. In the United States, an estimated 200.000 girls (mainly immigrants from Africa) are affected by FGM every year, as the US TV station ABC news reports. I received numerous invitations from US universities to attend screenings of the movie, and I am planning to go on a tour to different universities in 2012.
Several screenings took place in Africa, too. In March, Desert Flower was released in Nigeria and in Ghana. The African Union hosted a screening of the movie for the 300 delegates at the anti-FGM conference in Addis Abeba / Ethiopia. UN Women screened the movie at universities, and several other NGOs organised screenings at project sites throughout Africa.
NGOs, Universities and schools screened the movie as charity activities for the Desert Flower Foundation.

In Poland, I was able to discuss issues related to women‘s rights with 800 female activists at the Zielona Gora Filmfestival . At the One Young World Meeting in Zurich / Switzerland I was able to not only meet old friends such as Bob Geldof, Jamie Oliver and Bishop Desmond Tutu, but was also able to speak in front of young delegates from all over the world on women’s rights and my view of the situation of women in Africa at the discussion round Africa Rising. In Zurich, I also learned a lot about the importance of social media for grassroot movements and met brave and interesting activists from Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia.

Did you know that there is no universal logo for human rights, a logo that could be used in demonstrations, on posters, websites, flags and walls? Together with Mikail Gorbatchev, Ai Wei Wei and numerous other prominent activists and artists, I decided to support the initiative of Guido Westerwelle, foreign minister of Germany, to establish such a logo and travelled to Berlin to attend the start of the contest. By September 2011, more than 15.000 participants had submitted their designs, and the winning logo was presented at the UN General Assembly in New York.

I am very happy to see more and more young African women join my fight against female genital mutilation. I am a firm believer in actions that comes from those who are affected, and so the Desert Flower Foundation supported a number of projects by young girls this year, for example this projects from London. A group of young immigrants shot their own Anti-FGM movie which will now be shown in schools around the UK.

There are many more interesting stories to tell, but I invite you to read all about the work of the Desert Flower Foundation here on this website and on Facebook! I think you all so much for your support and wish you all the best for 2012!

I am looking forward to the many interesting project lying ahead of me in 2012. The fight continues!


Mein Jahresrückblick 2011

Zuerst einmal möchte ich mich bei allen Unterstützern der Desert Flower Foundation und meinem Team bedanken. 11.249 E-Mails haben uns 2011 erreicht, so viele wie nie zuvor. Betroffene oder von FGM bedrohte Frauen und Mädchen haben an die Desert Flower Foundation geschrieben und viele, viele Menschen, die ihre Unterstützung und Hilfe angeboten haben. Die Desert Flower Foundation hat 815 Schülerinnen und Studentinnen weltweit unterstützt, die Facharbeiten, Diplomarbeiten, Dissertationen oder Präsentationen zum Thema FGM gemacht haben. Diese Anfragen kamen aus aller Welt.

Von Mexico City bis Johannesburg, von London bis Bratislava, von Los Angeles bis Nairobi, von Lagos bis Berlin. Dass Schülerinnen und Studentinnen in ihren Schulen und an den Universitäten sich dieses Themas annehmen, ist für mich unglaublich wichtig. Denn erst diese junge Generation wird weibliche Genitalverstümmelung ausrotten. 460 Medien, Zeitungen, Magazine, Internetplattformen, Blogger, Radio- und TV-Stationen haben um Interviews und Informationsmaterial angesucht und alle konnten zufrieden gestellt werden.

Mit dem Filmstart von „Wüstenblume“ in Japan begann das Jahr 2011. Das größte slowakische Frauenmagazin Eva veröffentlichte ein Interview und zeigte Fotos, die ich in Bratislava aufgenommen habe. Ich finde, dass die Fotos toll geworden sind und möchte mich bei meinem slowakischen Verlag für 50.000 verkaufte Bücher und meinem slowakischen Filmverleih für über 100.000 verkaufte Kinotickets sowie bei den vielen slowakischen Fans und Unterstützerinnen bedanken.

Im Januar 2011 startete meine Kampagne „Together for African Women“, die ich mit dem deutschen Unternehmen Mey Bodywear ins Leben gerufen habe. Für diese Kampagne habe ich das erste Mal in meinem Leben für Unterwäsche gemodelt und es hat sich ausgezahlt – für die Frauen Afrikas. Die Kampagne hat 60.000 € für die Projekte der Desert Flower Foundation in Äthiopien und in Kenia gebracht. Diese Summe wird mit den zusätzlichen Spendeneinnahmen in Unternehmen, die Frauen fair bezahlte Arbeitsplätze bieten, in die Aus- und Weiterbildung der Frauen sowie in ein medizinisches Projekt 2012 investiert werden. Wir werden laufend auf unserer Website und auf Facebook und Twitter über die Projekte und deren Fortschritte berichten.

Dieses Projekt hat übrigens schon 2011 Arbeitsplätze in Afrika gesichert, da Mey Bodywear 6.000 Seidenschals in einem der wenigen Fair Trade zertifizierten Unternehmen in Afrika bestellt hat und sehr erfolgreich in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz verkauft hat.

2012 werde ich mit meiner Desert Flower Foundation und befreundeten Designern eigene Schals, Taschen, Gürtel, Lesezeichen, T-shirts in Afrika produzieren lassen, um möglichst viele Arbeitsplätze für Frauen zu schaffen. Ab Februar 2012 werdet ihr regelmäßig über dieses Projekt informiert.

Im März startete der Film „Wüstenblume“ in den USA und erhielt großes Lob von den US-Medien. 200.000 afrikanische Mädchen sind in den USA jährlich von weiblicher Genitalverstümmelung bedroht, meldete der US-TV-Sender ABC News. Zahlreiche amerikanische Universitäten haben mich eingeladen den Film „Wüstenblume“ an den Unis zu zeigen. 2012 plane ich eine Tour um den Film an amerikanischen Universitäten zu zeigen.

Aber auch in Afrika konnten wir den Film bei zahlreichen Gelegenheiten zeigen. So startete der Film „Wüstenblume“ im März am größten Kinomarkt Afrikas, Nigeria und in Ghana. Die afrikanische Union zeigte den Film 300 Delegierten, die zur ersten AU-Konferenz gegen FGM nach Addis Abeba gereist waren. UN Women zeigte den Film an afrikanischen Universitäten und NGOs zeigten „Wüstenblume“ im Rahmen ihrer afrikanischen Betreuungsprojekte.

NGOs, Universitäten und Schulen zeigten den Film im Rahmen von Charity-Screenings zu Gunsten der Desert Flower Foundation.

In Polen diskutierte ich mit 800 engagierten Frauen beim Filmfestival  von Zielona Gora über die Arbeit der Desert Flower Foundation und den Film und beim One Young World Meeting in Zürich traf ich nicht nur alte Freunde wie Bob Geldof, Jamie Oliver und Bishop Desmond Tutu, sondern hatte auch die Möglichkeit vor den jugendlichen Delegierten meinen Standpunkt zu Frauenrechten in Afrika und dem großen Potential, das Afrika hat, bei der Podiumsdiskussion Africa Rising darzulegen.

Bei diesem Treffen lernte ich viele junge Aktivistinnen aus Ägypten, Tunesien, Lybien und dem Jemen kennen, die den arabischen Frühling durch ihr außerordentliches Engagement und ihre Kenntnisse bei Social Media wie Facebook und Twitter maßgeblich beeinflusst haben.

Wusstet ihr, dass es kein universelles Logo für Menschenrechte gibt, das Demonstranten auf ihren Plakaten, Fahnen und Bannern aufmalen hätten können? Gemeinsam mit Michael Gorbatchev, dem chinesischen Künstler Ai Wei Wei und zahlreichen anderen Menschenrechtsaktivisten unterstützte ich die Initiative des deutschen Außenministers Guido Westerwelle und reiste zur Vorstellung des Logowettbewerbs nach Berlin.

Bis September haben 15.126 Menschen ihre Entwürfe eingereicht und bei der UN-Generalversammlung in New York wurde das neue Logo präsentiert.

Ich bin sehr glücklich, dass sich immer mehr junge Afrikanerinnen gegen weibliche Genitalverstümmelung auflehnen und unterstütze mit meiner Desert Flower Foundation jede Initiative, die von betroffenen oder bedrohten Mädchen ausgeht, so auch dieses großartige Projekt aus London. Junge Immigrantinnen haben ihren eigenen Anti-FGM Film gedreht, der nun an allen Schulen Englands gezeigt wird. Ich bin stolz auf diese Mädchen. Denn ich weiß, dass viele junge Afrikanerinnen so denken und FGM in der nächsten Generation endgültig von unserem Planeten verschwinden wird.

Es gäbe noch viel zu berichten über die Aktivitäten der Desert Flower Foundation, aber ihr könnt über die Arbeit ausführlich auf der Website und auf Facebook nachlesen.

Ich danke euch vom Herzen für eure Unterstützung, wünsche euch Gesundheit, Liebe, Glück und Erfolg!

Ich freue mich auf 2012.

Der Kampf geht weiter!


Waris Dirie

Exclusive eyewithness report on FGM in Indonesia, a story from Isabella Humphrey

11 Jan

Here you can read the story about FGM from Isabella Humphrey from her current travels in Indonesia: