Waris Dirie: “I started the Desert Flower Foundation in 2002 to support my fight against female genital mutilation (FGM), to which I was myself subjected as a little child”

08 jun, 2011

Waris Dirie, the former top model, writer, human rights activist, founder of The Waris Dirie foundation in an exclusive interview with our brazilian editor Ed!


My name is Waris Dirie, I come from Somalia and now live in Vienna / Austria and Gdansk Poland. But as a nomad, the whole world is my home.

I love music, especially African music, I love dancing, and I love spending time outside in the nature.

The Desert Flower Foundation: the fight against female genital mutilation!



I started the Desert Flower Foundation in 2002 to support my fight against female genital mutilation (FGM), to which I was myself subjected as a little child. FGM is a crime and human rights violation that affects around 150 women and girls worldwide. It has serious physical and psychological consequences for its victims and offers no benefits for those subjected to it. FGM is the most cruel and violent form of suppression of women and it is a cruel crime against innocent children.

Through my foundation, I support projects that help women gain more independence, both financially and socially. As I argue in my latest book “Black woman, white country”, I am convinced that financial independence is a prerequisite for a change in the societal standing and recognition of women. 


Desert Flower, the motion picture raising more awareness on the issue of FGM



The reason I agreed to have my book “Desert Flower” turned into a movie was that I knew a movie would reach a lot of people and raise more awareness on the issue of FGM. To me, that is the real benefit of this movie.

 To stop listening the music while you watch the video, just click on the stop button, located right below the page in Radio on line

I like the fact that I can use my fame to change things, to get an audience to listen to me and to raise awareness. The five most important things in life for me are: Love, Peace, Respect, Human Rights and Children.

The modeling years and the market for ethnic models nowadays

As you can read in my book “Desert Flower”, I was discovered while working at a fast food restaurant in London by british top photographer Terence Donavan. My first experiences as a model was the shooting for the Pirelli-Calendar. I did many great shootings and worked with many famous photographers like Herb Ritts and Richard Avedon.

The market for ethnic models used to be very bad. I lost jobs because the customer wanted a white model. I talk about these experiences in detail in “Black woman, white country”. I think the situation is better now than it used to be, but black models are still under-represented in the fashion world.


Funny/unusual backstages´ moments


Too many to tell. Just read the books. Modeling is like acting to me. Good models give the photographer opportunities to make great pictures.

Waris, the renowned activist X Waris, the former international top model

First I see myself as a human rights activist. I used my modeling fame and the attention I got to raise awareness on FGM and I will continue to do so.


A fashionista?

I like sporty and comfortable clothes at home.
Handling with the fame in the middle of a huge crowd

Situations like that happen a lot. I do not mind since I really like to be in contact with people and hear what they think about my books and my foundation!


Beauty and elegance definitely help but in the end what matters is the difference you make in your world.

The Projects

I am currently working on projects to support women in Africa in becoming more independent. I am also working on establishing a fund that will invest in African businesses and start-ups to help create jobs and enable women to develop their careers and gain a stable income. Look out for many interesting news from me, which you can follow on www.desertflowerfoundation.org, on my blog www.warisdirie.wordpress.com and on facebook and twitter.