Waris Dirie

Somali model, author, actress, activist

Waris Dirie (born 1965) is a Somali model, author, actress and human rights activist in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). From 1997 to 2003, she was a UN special ambassador against female genital mutilation. In 2002 she founded her own organization in Vienna, the Desert Flower Foundation.

Waris Dirie in 2018
Waris Dirie in 2010


  • Women’s loyalty has to be earned with trust and affection, rather than barbaric rituals. The time has come to leave the old ways of suffering behind.
  • Every 11 seconds a little girl is being mutilated somewhere in the world, it has nothing to do with religion, culture or tradition but against all rights of humanity its a crime its cruel its unacceptable.
  • I knew most married women in my community put up with everything and anything. Any abuse, hopelessness, and I thought, was I here to be used and be abused? I knew there was so much I could do with my life, but on my terms.
  • I just knew that I had to tell the world that there was torture, an undercover war against women. But this is not one person's war – all of us have to do something.
  • What really made me take a stand was that nobody was doing anything.
  • “My mother named me after a miracle of nature: Waris means desert flower. The desert flower blooms in a barren environment where few living things can survive.”[1]
  • “I feel that God made my body perfect the way I was born. Then man robbed me, took away my power, and left me a cripple. My womanhood was stolen. If God had wanted those body parts missing, why did he create them?

I just pray that one day no woman will have to experience this pain. It will become a thing of the past. People will say "Did you hear, female genital mutilation has been outlawed in Somalia?" Then the next country, and the next, and so on, until the world is safe for all women. What a happy day that will be, and that's what I'm working toward. In'shallah, if God is willing, it will happen. ” [2]

  • “When I was a child I said I don't want to be a woman.

Why?! Because it's too painful to be a woman!" "Let us try and change what it means to be a woman.” [3]

  • “Many friends have expressed concern that a religious fanatic will try to kill me when I go to Africa. After all, I’ll be speaking out against a crime many fundamentalists consider a holy practice. I’m sure my work will be dangerous, and I admit to being scared…. But my faith tells me to be strong, that God led me down this path for a reason. He has work for me to do. This is my mission. And I believe that long before the day I was born, God chose the day I will die, so I can’t change that. In the meantime, I might as well take a chance, because that’s what I’ve done all my life.” [4]
  • “nothing to be done, except go see them. I also knew they” [5]
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