About Waris Dirie

Waris Dirie is a former model, human rights activist an author of the bestselling books “Desert Flower”, “Desert Dawn”, “Desert Children”, “Letter to your mother” and her latest book “Black woman, white country”. She has received nuerous awards for her work as a human rights activist, including the ‘Women’s World Award’ by President Mikhail Gorbachev (2004), the ’Bishop Oscar Romero Award’ by the Catholic Church (2005) the ‘Woman of the Year Award’ by Glamour Magazine (2000), the ‘Africa Award’ of the German government (1999) as well as the ‘Corine Award’ of the umbrella association of the German bookselling trade (2002).

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, appointed her as UN Special Ambassador for the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation.

In 2007 the French President Nicolas Sarkozy appointed her as a ‘Chévalier de la Légion d’Honneur’, the ‘World Demographic Association’ nominated her as the first woman for the ‘Prix des Générations’

2008 Waris Dirie was the first woman awarded the ‘Martin Buber Gold Medal’ by the ‘Martin Buber Foundation’.

In 2009, Waris Dirie received the ‘My Way Award’, following Nelson Mandela in 2008. She was also the first recipient of the ‘HOPE Award’ for her achievements as a human rights activist.

In 2010 the African Union appointed Waris Dirie as the first ambassador for peace and Security. Italy awarded her with the goldmedal of the president of the republic.

In 2002, Waris Dirie started her own organisation, the Waris Dirie Foundation, based in Vienna.

The foundation launches worldwide public awareness campaigns against Female Genital Mutilation and supports existing campaigns. Furthermore, it supports victims directly and offers a helpdesk for victims, and an information service for activists, supporters and press via the email waris@utanet.at. Up to now more than 60.000 people from all over the world took advantage of this unique service.

Waris Dirie’s new book “Black woman, white country” will be released worldwide in the course of 2010. The book is based on Waris Dirie’s personal experiences as an African woman in Europe and the US, but also intensively deals with political and societal problems in Africa and demands a new approach to development assistance.

Waris Dirie makes her own contribution to such a new approach with her project “The Africa Fund – Invest in Africa“. This fund invests in African companies that foster sustainable growth in Africa and provides assistance to African start-up companies. By providing women with an income, the fund seeks to improve their social status and independence, hence greatly increasing the chances that these women will not subject their daughters to FGM or forced marriage.

CNN feature on Waris

Waris Dirie ist ein früheres Supermodel, Menschenrechtsaktivistin und anerkannte Autorin der Bücher “Wüstenblume”, “Nomadentochter”, “Schmerzenskinder”, “Brief an meine Mutter” und dem in Mai 2010 erschienenen neuen Buch “Schwarze Frau, weißes Land”.

Sie erhielt viele Preise und Auszeichnung für ihre Arbeit und ihre Bücher, u.a. den ‚World Women’s Award‘ von Präsident Michail Gorbachev (2004), den ‚Bischof Oscar Romero Preis’ der Katholischen Kirche (2005), den ‚Woman of the Year Award’ des Magazins ‚Glamour’ (2000), den ‚Afrika Preis’ der deutschen Bundesregierung (1999) sowie den ‚Corine Award’ des Dachverbandes des Deutschen Buchhandels für das beste Sachbuch (2002).

2007 ernannte sie der französische Präsident Nicolas Sarkozy zu einem ‚Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur’, die ‚World Demographic Association’ verlieh ihr am 8. September 2007 den ‚Prix des Générations’.

2008 erhielt Waris Dirie von der Martin Buber Foundation als erste Frau die ‚Martin Buber Plakette’.

2009 wurde Waris Dirie nach Nelson Mandela im Vorjahr mit dem ‚My Way Preis‘ ausgezeichnet. Des Weiteren erhielt Waris als erste Preisträgerin den ‚HOPE Award‘ für ihre Arbeit als Menschenrechtsaktivistin.

2010 ernannte die Afrikanische Union Waris Dirie zur ersten Botschafterin für Frieden und Sicherheit. Italien verlieh Waris Dirie die Goldmedaillie des Präsidenten der Republik.

Waris Diries letztes Buch “Schwarze Frau – weißes Land” ist 2010 erschienen. Das Buch beschäftigt sich neben persönlichen Erfahrungen als Afrikanerin in Europa und den USA intensiv mit den politischen und gesellschaftlichen Problemen Afrikas und fordert neue Ansätze in der Entwicklungshilfe.

CNN Beitrag über Waris Dirie.

38 Responses to “About Waris Dirie”

  1. Mauro D`Addio June 27, 2010 at 3:01 am #

    With all the respect towards this great woman history, I find, as a filmmaker, the mutilation scene on the film, profoundly traumatizing for the little kid actress, the child was exposed to fake blood, nudity, and agressive acting in some shots. I think that goes against the profoundly respectfull cause the film and this foundation are fighting for.
    If we will fight to protect our kids integrity, we should also respect these principals when shooting a film, in order to respect the fragile psichologically formation of such small kid.
    I saw the film yesterday and coulden`t stop thinking about how unnescessary it was to shoot the sceene that way, it could be as strong or even better done, without this psichological insult to a small child.

    Best Regards

  2. Tariq July 6, 2010 at 6:48 pm #

    what a great movie. I knew about FGM before, but Deseret Flower really brought the issue to life for me. May Allah bless Waris for bringing social awareness to this practice as it is not a matter of religion, but tradition.

  3. alfredo romero payares January 2, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    En realidad es una gran película, en ella se muestra y se da a conocer al mundo situaciones que aun persisten en determinadas poblaciones, pero gracias a tu fundación veo que se logrará el objetivo. Soy un admirador de tu película y de lo bella que eres, me apasionan las mujeres de color . . . valga la oportunidad para solicitar de tí personalmente un souvenir autografiado, cualquier cosa que me mandes la mostraré con mucho orgullo.
    Carrera 8C # 41 – 44 Alboraya. Barranquilla.Colombia

  4. Janne September 24, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

    This evening I and my wife saw Desert Flower the movie for the first time and was profoundly touched by Waris history and the way she was mutulated.
    As parents of a pair of twins (just celebrating their first year in life) we simply cried our hearts out.
    What if they would had been exposed to the same mutulation ?
    It’s hard to just think about…
    To mutulate a unknowing child like that is simply so wrong it can’t be described with words.
    Truly heartbreaking.
    Thanks for a very good and very strong true to life movie.

    J & C from Sweden

  5. Gabriele Schröder November 11, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

    Waris you are amazing and fight with you against fgm

  6. Daniel Almeida November 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    Hi Waris,

    My name is Daniel Almeida, I am working at the UN WOMEN Office Addis Ababa and we would like to screen your movie in the framework of the commemoration of the International Day to Eradicate Violence Against Women and Girls at the Addis Ababa University on November 25 2011. Can you please give me a contact number and guidance on how to proceed? Desert flower is such a powerful tool for raising awareness about FGM and other forms of violence, I really look forward to get your feedback.

    Best!

    D

  7. Figen January 23, 2012 at 3:36 am #

    Dear Waris,

    I watched Desert Flower the movie just couple in tears just a couple mintues ago. I believe you are the most dearest flower in the whole word. It was very facinating to see how you stood up and delivered that lovely speech at the end. I hope your message is still saving many others. What a fight and a big success!!! As a woman, I am very proud of you.

    Best Wishes

    Figen from Australia

  8. Mademoiselle Slimalicious March 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Bonjour Waris, I just wanted to tell you that I’m talking about your work on a special “International Women’s Day” post I wrote on my blog. I want my readers to know about the great work you do to help so many women and girls around the world.
    Happy International Women’s Day to you Waris!

  9. Somya Sharma April 18, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Hello Waris, I am Somya. I am a copywriter and a voice over artist based in India. I already knew about FGM which is the cruelest thing which could happen to any human being on earth. Recently, I happened to read about you, your life and your undeterred fight against FGM. You are incredible. I want to meet you, the lady so terrific and inspiring.

    It would be an honour to be in any way associated with the cause called FGM. In any way, if I could help you, please do let me know either on 09978442788 or on arsomyatheatre@gmail.com.

  10. Dejen kebede/architect May 2, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    I Just read z book now . No words but love all z energy and..all

  11. Dejen kebede/architect May 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    “:no words but love….all:”

  12. Lucia January 17, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Waris,

    I love you. Thank you for your wonderful books, especially ‘Desert Flower’. I am happy to have met you & the hugs that are often shared mean more than you can imagine. As I write this, I have not yet finished reading the book, but my heart cries for all our African girls/ladies that have to go through all this pain & suffering in the name of tradition. Keep up with the beautiful work and let no one stop you no matter what!

    Thank you ‘mami’

  13. Pawlina January 24, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    Waris przeczytałam Twoje dwie książki Kwiat pustyni i Czarna kobieta, biały kraj..obejżałam także film, wylałam morze łez… To co przeszłaś w swoim życiu nie mieści się w mojej głowie że można jeszcze się uśmiechać a najbardziej smuci mnie to że Twoja mama nie dostrzega krzywdy jaka jest wyrządzana wszystkim dziewczynkom w Afryce. Nie mogę wspomóc Twojej fundacji bo jestem na skromnej emeryturze ale wspieram Ciebie duchowo i serdecznie dziękuję za to co robisz dla tych niewinnych dzieci i że pomagasz kobietom by polepszyły swój los. Jestem z Polski a wyczytałam że mieszkałaś nad naszym morzem jak byłaś w ciąży. Serdecznie pozdrawiam i życzę dużo szczęścia Tobie i Twoim dzieciom. Janka

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  27. Tiffany April 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    Liebe Waris

    Vor etwa 4.Jahren Ehrzählte mir meine Nachbarin von dem Buch dort verstand ich noch nicht richtig um was es im Buch geht. Jetzt haben wir in der Schule über Frauen rechte und Verstümmelung…. gesprochen unser Lehrer teilte uns mit das wir den Film in der schule schauen werden da erinnerte ich mich wieder und freute mich den Film zu schauen in dem Zeitpunkt hatte ich nicht so grosse Erwartungen und wusste nicht genau was auf mich zu kam. Doch jetzt da wir ihn heute zu ende geschaut hatten hat er alle meine erwartungen übertroffen du bist für mich ein RIESEN Vorbild und du faszinierst mich soo. Einer meiner grössten Wünsche ist es auch mal später um die Welt zu reisen und Kindern helfen etc..
    Mach so weiter du bist hammer
    Liebe Grüsse Tiffany:)

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  31. Gareth Jones August 23, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    This horrific practice is of course something that the world should firstly know about and thereafter educate the people involved. As a father of a young daughter I need to know however that the young girl in the mutilation scene is ok. She was simply too young to be that good an actor. I feel traumatized. No humanitarian cause should use anyone, let alone a child to further its aims, let alone this cause. I know it sounds pathetic but I need to know that the child is ok.

    • warisdirie October 24, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

      Dear Gareth,

      Thank you for your message, you are not the first person asking this question and worrying about little Safa.
      But we can assure you that she is safe, during the mutilation scene she was scared, this is why she cried, but she was not mutilated.
      Her parents wanted to mutilate her with the money from the movie, but the Desert Flower Filmproduction could´nt let that happen, so we made a contract with her parents. Safa´s family is getting monthly food supplies & kerosene & Safa´s school fees are taken care of by the Foundation until she is 18 years old. In exchange the family committed itself not to mutilate Safa and to bring her regularly to Dr. Acina, who verifies if Safa is unharmed.
      On the DFF website you can read more about Safa, our little Desert Flower http://www.desertflowerfoundation.org

      LOVE,

      Waris and the Desert Flower Team

      • Gareth Jones November 5, 2013 at 4:48 am #

        Dear Waris,

        Thank you so much for your response. I was hugely relieved to read that Safa is now flourishing.

        I hope you do not mind but as I am a teacher of a subject called Theory of Knowledge, I used your film as an example in a class that I was teaching on ethical theory. Can I add here that this was the last thing in my thoughts when writing my initial post. Your film helped provide a really enriching experience for students in that they could see the practical implications of some of the ideas that we have been looking at in class.

        After much discussion and debate, my students divided themselves up into three, almost equally sized groups, in order to compose letters which relay the discussion and their feelings. They will be responding to this post shortly.

        Thanks again for your work and your challenging art. I see in the news today just how important it is.

        http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/04/uk-mutilation-girls-report

        The very best of regards,

        Gareth

      • Leah, Jacklyn, Nikita, Nathaniel, Larry and Andrew November 5, 2013 at 11:25 am #

        Dear Waris,

        Having watched your film Desert Flower, we have been left shocked by the use of a young child in the film. On an ethical and moral basis we entirely disagree with this decision. We understand that the child was not harmed in the production of the film and that she is now receiving educational and resource benefits. We also appreciate that the DFF has been raising awareness about female genital mutilation. However, we feel that the psychological costs outweigh the advantages of the film. Real fear was instilled in the child, and is most likely a traumatic experience that she will never forget. A child is innocent and their brain is easily molded, so exposing Safa to such a distressing scenario is exploitative. Deontology ethics theorizes that you should never treat people as objects that will help you attain your goals. In this case, you have used an innocent young child to fight your cause. We believe that forcing one person to suffer in order to help a wider cause is immoral.

        In addition, you yourself have been seriously affected by genital mutilation and understand not only the physical implications, but the psychological suffering as well. How could you allow a child to feel this same fear? We feel that there are far more appropriate and effective ways to raise awareness about the issue.

        We look forward to your response.

        Best Regards,

        Nikita, Leah, Andrew, Nathaniel, Larry and Jacklyn

      • Bryce, Justin, Holly, Kate, Lewis, Sampras, Shirley November 12, 2013 at 4:10 am #

        Dear Ms Dirie,

        On behalf of a section of Gareth Jones’ Theory of Knowledge class, we believe that casting Safa in the “Desert Flower” movie was acceptable. If Safa has indeed been provided the means for an education until the age of 18 and her family has been compensated with food supplies and kerosene in order to have the opportunity to live a better life, we believe the benefits that Safa has been provided with far outweigh the possible trauma that she may have felt while filming the movie. Additionally, the fact that acting in the movie may have saved Safa from being mutilated herself further demonstrates the merits of doing so.

        Naturally, this viewpoint is derived from the ethical theory of utilitarianism, where Safa’s role in the “Desert Flower” benefits the wider population, achieving “maximized utility”. However we understand that a clear counter argument for this ethical theory would be ethics of care, in which the treatment of Safa would be prohibited due to the fundamental nature of ethics of care based on empathy. Despite this, we still believe that the treatment of Safa should not be condemned due to the benefits that her portrayal in the “Desert Flower” provides.

        Sincerely,
        Bryce Siu, Justin Muto, Holly Huang, Kate Chen, Lewis Lee, Sampras Siu, Shirley Foo

  32. Mårten Johnsson October 12, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    Hey Waris , I have only just read your book a flower in Africa. And I read and cry, read and cried. The story and the fight that you fight is amazing, I am so grateful that I have had access to it. What can I do for you. You are a inperiation for all relief efforts, I try to help the children in Thailand, so they can go to school, you’ve given me a new spark. thank you thank you/ Mårten Johnsson

  33. Sarah Tran & Zachary Pau November 12, 2013 at 4:08 am #

    Dear Waris,

    Thanks for your reply. This letter is in interest of the well being of Safa, the young actress who played the role of an infant Waris Dirie, in the film ‘Desert Flower’. We wish to raise questions about the real purpose behind showing such gruesome scene of female genital mutilation publically, given the wide range of positive and negative implications behind it.

    We collectively understand the purpose of showing such a scene; its inclusion into the final script was crucial and powerful in the audience’s understanding of the misogynistic ideals that allow for practices such as female circumcision, to still exist in society today. However, we are conflicted in our deontological belief, which judges the ethicality of one’s action by its adherence to the rules. The rules in this context is, that in many other countries female genital mutilation is not supported morally as well as legally, and the universal rights of this conflict is also questioned.

    Given the reasons above, we are still uncertain to justify whether displaying such scene is ethical or not.

    Regards,
    Zachary Pau & Sarah Tran

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  1. KUWYFC – Desert Flower featuring Liya Kebede - KUWYFC - November 22, 2011

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