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Waris Dirie

Waris Dirie was born into a nomad family living in the Somali desert near the border to Ethiopia in 1965. At the tender age of five, she was forced to undergo the inhuman procedure of female genital mutilation. This horrible tradition is still practiced in many countries around the world today – by both by Moslems and Christians. According to records kept by the United Nations more than 8000 girls become victims of this heinous crime every day.

Waris Dirie back in the desert_Djibouti 2008





At the age of 13, after being forced to marry a man who was old enough to be her grandfather Waris fled her homeland. After a daring escape and many tribulations, she arrived in London and initially found employment as a housemaid and later at a McDonald’s.

Waris mit blauem Schal

Supermodel and Bond Girl

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Terence Donovan fotographed Waris Dirie in 1987 for the Pirelli Calender


At the age of 18 she was discovered by one of Britain’s leading fashion photographers, Terence Donovan, who thought she would be the perfect model. She quickly became an international celebrity.

She was given a part in a James Bond epic, the blockbuster “The Living Daylights”, starring Timothy Dalton as 007.

Human Rights Activst

In 1996 the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, appointed Waris Dirie a UN Special Ambassador for the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation.

Waris mit Kofi Annan

Waris Dirie UN-Sonderbotschafterin

She has traveled the world extensively for the UN, participated in numerous conferences on the subject, met with national leaders, Nobel Prize-winners, international stars, gaining support for this important issue as well as generating large donations for the UN.

Waris mit Sarkozy

World woman Award Gorbatschow


Waris Dirie has received many prestigious prizes and awards for her work and books, such as the “Women’s World Award” by President Mikhail Gorbachev. In 2007 the French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented her with the “Chévalier de la Légion d’Honneur”. The ‘World Demographic Association’ nominated her as the first woman for the ‘Prix de la Gènèration’ and the ‘Martin Buber Foundation’ nominated her as the first woman for the ‘Martin Buber Gold Medal’.


The Book - Desert Flower


1997 Harper Collins in New York published Waris Dirie’s biography “Desert Flower”. The book quickly became an international bestseller. In the meantime the book has been published in 65 licensed editions, was number 1 on the bestseller lists in many countries (in Germany, for example, the book stayed in the Top Ten list of best-selling books published in the magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ for a total of 120 weeks) and has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide.


Other books from Waris Dirie:

- Desert Dawn (2004)

- Desert Children (2005)

- Letter to my mother (2007)

Desert Flower Foundation

In 2002 she founded her own foundation, called “Waris Dirie Foundation” to support her work as a campaigner against FGM. In 2010, the Foundation was re-named “Desert Flower Foundation” to reflect the broader approach to addressing Female Genital Mutilation though economic projects in Africa.

Currently, the organization has international headquarters in Vienna, Austria and has regional offices in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Monaco, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Djibouti , Sierra Leone and Poland. The official languages ​​are English, German, Dutch, French and Spanish. The foundation’s team is made ​​up of men and women committed to gender equality, human rights and all of them share Waris Dirie’s ideal: Ending Female Genital Mutilation.

women at wise 2

The key work aspects of the Desert Flower Foundation are:

- Raise Awareness: Through workshops, seminars, conferences, presentations, charity events, online campaigns etc.

- Prevention work: Through projects like “Save a little desert flower”, which seeks to protect little girls in Africa from FGM.

- Damage Repair: Through our Desert Flower Centers we try to help and guide victims of FGM to regain, as much as possible, their life quality and confidence.

Desert Flower Foundation and the whole campaigns, projects and activities are funded through private donations .

Desert Flower - The Movie

In March 2008 producer and Oscar-winner Peter Hermann (“Nowhere in Africa”) commenced with the shooting of “Desert Flower” (the budget: USD 16 Mio). The initial filming took place in Djibouti with mostly amateur actors. Further locations included New York, Berlin and London. Waris Dirie served as associate producer for the film, which was directed by Sherry Hormann.

Brief Summary of Contents

From the Somali desert to the world’s catwalks. When Waris Dirie’s DESERT FLOWER appeared in 1998, the world was shocked. The former supermodel tells her breathtaking life story, describing her incredible journey from a nomadic life in the deserts of Somalia to the world’s most famous catwalks. This was a dream and a nightmare at the same time. In New York, at the peak of her career, she tells in an interview of the practice of female genital mutilation that she had to suffer when she was five. Waris Dirie decides to end her life as a model and dedicate her life to fighting this archaic ritual.

Waris Dirie_shooting Desert Flower_Djibouti 2008_2


Waris Dirie at shooting  of Desert Flower_Somali border_Djibouti 2008