In 2002 Waris Dirie and her team founded the Desert Flower Foundation in Vienna with the goal to eradicate female genital mutilation forever.
Worldwide there are more than 200 million women affected by this horrible crime. According to UNICEF in Africa 30 million girls are threatened by FGM. Female genital mutilation is practiced in East, West and North Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and, because of strong immigration, in Europe, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand.
The goal of the Desert Flower Foundation is to educate and inform people worldwide, to support women affected by FGM and to save girls from this inhuman practice, which should not exist in our society in the 21th century.
Clarification and Laws
In 2002 nobody knew that this terrible torture was practiced by the immigrants in Europe. Waris Dirie and her newly founded Desert Flower Foundation Team decided to work together with young European and African journalists to start an undercover research in African communities all over Europe. The Desert Flower Foundation team investigated for two years FGM in African communities in many European capitals from London to Paris, Berlin to Rome, Madrid to Amsterdam, Brussels to Stockholm and Vienna to Lisbon. The report included 4.000 pages of hard facts and Waris Dirie decided to publish a book “Desert Children”, published by Virago Books, London, 2005. The book has been translated into many other languages and has been published in many countries.
The publication of the book and the results of the research had consequences. The international media discussed the issue as 500,000 women affected by FGM live in Europe without treatment, without education to stop to continue the practice. All of a sudden, FGM was not an African problem alone but it happened right next door in Europe. The European Union took FGM in Europe for the first time in history on their agenda and invited Waris Dirie and the Desert Flower Foundation team to present their study during the council of ministers on February 6th 2006. The European ministers were shocked and promised to take immediate action. Almost all European countries implemented or tightened laws against this crime and initiated campaigns.
The biggest Campaign against FGM worldwide
The most spectacular campaign started with the BBC, Scotland Yard and the Desert Flower Foundation in 2007 in the UK. Scotland Yard discovered more than 20,000 girls in the UK are threatened by FGM every year during summer holidays, more than in any other European country. The BBC produced in cooperation with Scotland Yard and the Desert Flower Foundation, a video to inform British citizens about the practice and the thread. 35,000 DVD´s were distributed in Schools, Universities, hospitals and police stations in the United Kingdom. It was the biggest Campaign against FGM until then in the UK.
The Desert Flower Foundation released a special mail address for FGM victims, girls threatened by FGM and people who wanted to support the campaign. During the first year, 10,000 emails arrived in the office of our foundation. In 2008 the Desert Flower Foundation developed with German agency Heymann Brandt de Gelmini the first large Social Media campaign against FGM supported by video, this was given to many TV stations around the globe. More than 400 million people saw the campaign and the Desert Flower Foundation received the German Social Media award for best campaign in 2010.
Feature film “Desert Flower”
In 2009, the Desert Flower Foundation presented the film “Desert Flower”, Waris Dirie´s biopic during the Venice Film festival. The film has been shown since 2009 in 40 countries in cinemas and regularly on TV. Many conferences, organisations such as UNHCR, UNICEF and embassies showed and show Desert Flower as the strongest statement ever published in the fight against FGM.
Today the film is part of any anti-FGM campaign. Schools, Universities, film festivals and cultural events all over the world including many African and Asian countries show the film. In 2007 Al Jazeera, at the time the largest Arab TV station, invited Waris Dirie to perform on their prime time program “The Riz Kahn Show”. This was the first time, an Arab TV station discussed FGM on their program. 200 million people saw the show. Meanwhile, many Arab TV stations discuss FGM and Waris Dire performed on many Arab TV shows such as Kalam Nawaem, on MBC.
Support for activists
Many students have contacted the Desert Flower Foundation since 2002 to request information for presentations, studies, dissertations and we have provided information material or PowerPoint Presentations to more than 7,000 of them. We won new activists and a few of them have founded their own initiatives and even foundations.
The work of the Desert Flower Foundation has been honoured and awarded by many politicians and organisations and Waris Dirie has collected many awards for the work of her Desert Flower Foundation.
In 2007, French president Nicolas Sarkozy presented French most prestigious award le chevalier de la legion d´honneur in the Elysee Palace to Waris Dirie, president Michael Gorbatchev presented the World Women's Award to Waris, the readers of US Glamour Magazine voted Waris Dirie as Woman of the Year, the Italian government awarded her with the highest award of Italy, the African union appointed her as their first ambassador for Peace and Security (2010), the UN, UNESCO and UNICEF appointed her as their Special Ambassador and the World Economic Forum in Davos appointed her as the first Young Global Leader in 2005.
The Desert Flower Foundation raises worldwide awareness against FGM and supports little Desert Flowers in Africa directly to save them. With our new project “Save a Little Desert Flower” we saved 1,000 little girls in Africa by signing contracts with their parents to guarantee their integrity. In 2015 we are planning to sign 5,000 contracts.
Safa, the little girl who was seen as little Waris Dirie in the FGM scene in the film “Desert Flower” was the first girl saved by the Desert Flower Foundation. Her story has moved millions of people and her name became a synonym for change. The little desert flower is the role model for this unique and important project.
The Desert Flower Foundation supports victims for FGM directly with health care and surgery. Since the start of the foundation, the Desert Flower Foundation paid for surgery and medical treatment for FGM victims. In 2013 we decided to launch our first Desert Flower Center for holistic treatment of FGM victims in cooperation with hospital Waldfriede in Berlin. Due to the large international response, the Desert Flower Foundation will open more Desert Flower Center in Europe, the US, Africa and Asia to offer reconstructive surgery for victims and to treat them with dignity and respect.
Initiative „Together for African Women“
FGM is still widespread as women have still no rights in societies practicing this crime. They belong to the husbands or families without any right of self-determination. Therefore we have initiated “Together for African Women” in 2011 as a pilot project in Ethiopia to educate women, train them on jobs and to guarantee their own income. More than 140 women, all single mothers participated in the first pilot project and we are planning to roll out the project all over Africa in the near future.
Meanwhile, the Desert Flower Foundation runs their own offices in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Basel, Montreux, Amsterdam, Monaco, Barcelona, Djibouti, Sierra Leone and Poland. We need supporters and volunteers to join our offices as we are growing fast. Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.