Waris Dirie, born 1965 in Somalia, flees at 13 when sold as 4th wife. She's maid at the Somalian embassy in London, then McDonald's, where she's discovered and becomes int'l top model. 1997, she speaks up against female genital mutilation.
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The autobiography of a Somalian nomad circumcised at 3, sold in marriage at 13, fled from Africa a while later to become finally an American supermodel and is now at the age of 38, the UN spokeswoman against female genital mutilation (FGM).Written by
The girl who was chosen to play the young Dirie as she undergoes FGM is Safa Idriss Nour and was picked on condition that her parents sign a contract agreeing never to perform the same ritualistic operation on her. Dirie's new book begins in 2011, four years after the contract with Nour's parents had been signed, when she received a letter from the girl that suggested her parents were having second thoughts. "I was shocked and I was very angry," Dirie, 48, said. "I decided I had to fly to Djibouti immediately to save my little girl from this brutal crime."
Once in Djibouti, she realised that the family were being ostracised and Nour's fear of being forced to undergo FGM, rather than diminishing, had grown. Then seven, Nour told her: "Grandmother carried out lots of circumcisions in our house. The girls screamed so loudly, just like I did in the film."
Nour's parents confirmed that pressure from neighbours and others for Nour to undergo FGM was weighing heavily on them. They told Dirie that her daughter and the family were being treated as outsiders and neighbours were jealous of the financial and medical support they were receiving from Dirie's FGM campaigning charity, Desert Flower Foundation, in return for upholding the contract. "Safa's family is surrounded by others struggling every day to survive. Even though the families have very little money, they save what money they have to cut their daughters, because otherwise they will not get a bride price from the future husband," Dirie said. "Because of our support, Safa's family is completely independent and the first family in the area to stop the vicious circle. This is a breach of their tradition, and people have big problems with this." Dirie spent time with the family and took some of them to Europe to show them campaigning work and talk about the corrective surgery carried out by the Desert Flower Foundation. The experience was a turning point, particularly for the father, who once argued strongly with Dirie over cutting Nour. He now works as an activist for the charity. "Safa's father has even invited neighbours to participate in our programme and the reactions were positive," Dirie said, demonstrating the difference that can be made when campaigns are led from within the communities they are trying to change. Although the case of Nour's father was a success, trying to encourage broader behaviour change through education is not easy. "Educating communities is very difficult as people are very stubborn and not willing to change their habits even if it is against humanity," says Dirie. See more »
Lucinda (from the modeling agency) says to Waris she would be without broadband in Africa. Broadband didn't exist in the early to mid 80s when this story took place. See more »
DESERT FLOWER is a very powerful film that introduces many viewers to the atrocities of Female Genital Mutilation, defined by the dictionary as 'FGM, also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is defined as 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. FGM is typically carried out on girls from a few days old to puberty. It may take place in a hospital, but is usually performed, without anesthesia, by a traditional circumciser using a knife, razor, or scissors.' Though that is not the main driver of this story it certainly makes the life of Waris Dirie who wrote this autobiography recognized as someone who overcame insurmountable odds to become one the world's top models and a speaker for women's rights.
Liya Kebede stars as Waris Darie and is the perfect choice of an actress to fill this role: she is an International supermodel, actress and philanthropist, born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 2003, she was the first woman of color to become the face of Estée Lauder cosmetics.
Waris Dirie (Liya Kebede) was born in Somalia and was subjected to FGM and fled across the desert to freedom form the heinous attitude toward women (Waris as a child is beautifully portrayed by Soraya Omar-Scego). She struggles though dreary jobs, eventually hooks up with Marilyn (Sally Hawkins0 who introduces her to the world of fashion via Terry Donaldson (Timothy Spall), learns how to dress and walk in heels and eventually becomes the great model we know us as today. She has love interests (Anthony Mackie) but her aim is to gain enough credibility and money to go before the WHO and speak against the mutilation that exists in many countries to this day.
Directed by Sherry Horman who adapted Dirie's autobiography for the screen with Smita Bhide, the visuals are spectacular and the manner in which the story is related is full of passion and compassion. The entire cast (including Juliet Stevenson, Meera Syal, and Craig Parkinson) is pitch perfect. But it is Liya Kebede who fills the screen not only with her beauty but also with a powerful performance of the main character. A very fine film with a heavy message.
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