Waris Dirie:

D E S E R T   F L O W E R

                               an autobiography


Waris, which means "desert flower", is one of 12 children born to nomads in Somalia's desert.

At the age of five she underwent circumcision like every girl in her culture to be a woman and able to marry (her younger sister and two cousins died from this procedure). At the age of fourteen her father wanted to force her to marry a sixty year old man but she ran away. Waris tramped to the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu. After some time she got the chance to go with her uncle of marriage, an ambassador of Somalia, to London. Their she lived with her aunt and her family but they kept her like a slave.

Some years later they went back to Somalia and wanted her to come with them but Waris hid her passport and so they weren't able to take her away from England.

Now she was alone. She couldn't speak English, didn't know where to stay and how to manage her life. Although she found friends and a job soon.

One day a man wanted to take photos of her and so she became a famous model.

In New York she fell in love with a drummer, some time later they married and got a baby.

Since September 1997 she is Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Once, Waris Dirie said:

"Because women and girls are not valued equally as human beings, they are treated as less than such. Female genital mutilation is one example of this that has to be stopped."[1]

FGM (Female Genital Mutilation):

FGM refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury for cultural or other non-medical reasons.

There are many different terms in use to describe FGM like infibulation, circumcision or female genital cutting.

In some communities also "re-infibulation" is used. This means the edges of the wound are sutured again after childbirth.

FGM refers to the fifth century BC when for example the Ethiopians carried it out. These rites were practised in a lot of cultures, also among the early Romans and Arabs. Today the practise is common in parts of Africa, Asia and in some Arab Countries.

FGM is carried out mostly by elderly people in the community. These people receive a fee from the girls' family for doing this "job".

As instruments special knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades are used, generally without anaesthetics and antiseptics. Often the girls' legs are bound together for approximately 12 days to allow formation of the scars. The wound is stitched or held together by thorns to stop the bleeding.

When FGM is carried out depends on the community. There are areas where it's practised a couple of days after birth but the typical age is between 7 and 10 years, but it's still dropping.

There are lots of reasons why FGM is performed, for instance:

-        Psychosexual reasons: FGM is a means of control women's sexuality and it is thought that it ensures virginity before and fidelity after marriage.

-        Sociological and cultural reasons: Circumcision is seen as the boarder to womanhood and cultural tradition.

At least 2 million girls are in danger to undergo this cruel practise every year.

Circumcision has  a lot of immediate and long-term consequences to the health of women, which can cause death. There is also the risk of AIDS infection because the instruments for circumcision are used several times without cleaning.

FGM violates the basic human rights and it's more a cultural than a religious thing.

Zainab (22) describes her infibulation at the age of eight:

"[] The day before our operation was due to take place, another girl was infibulated and she died because of the operation. We were so scared and didn't want to suffer the same fate. But our parents told us it was an obligation, so we went. We fought back; we really thought we were going to die because of the pain. You have one woman holding your mouth so you won't scream, two holding your chest and the other two holding your legs. After we were infibulated, we had a rope tied across our legs so it was like we had to learn to walk again. We had to try to go to the toilet, if you couldn't pass water in the next 10 days something was wrong. We were lucky, I suppose. We gradually recovered and didn't die like the other girl. But the memory and the pain never really goes."[2]

Personal statement:

I liked this autobiography very much, because I was really fascinated by the topic and the way Waris Dirie described her life. It shows the hard life as a nomad, the reasons and the problems with circumcision and how life as such can be.




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