After reading a few articles about the life of Waris Dirie I was deeply touched and inspired. Many of you may recognize her as a beautiful model or remember that she is a Bond Girl. Dirie's beauty is far more than skin deep. When you are looking for someone who has overcome great obstacles and went on to make a difference in this world for others after themselves I feel she has to be on the top of such a list. This is a moving story of a strong courageous woman that did not let the harsh realities of her life get her down.
Dirie grew up in Somalia where female genital mutilation is practiced and at the young age of only 5 it was her turn to endure such a horrific act. She speaks of mothers taking their small children to endure such heartbreaking pain because it is what is expected of good women in their society. They find a gypsy woman to cut them with knives and razor blades that are not sanitary and under unclean conditions without any aid of pain medication, only something to grind their teeth down on. Dirie discusses the feeling in an interview in Readers Digest:
If this is not enough grief for one person to live with Waris discovers at the young age of 13 that she is to be married off to an old man 60 years old. By this time she has become brave and has decided there is a better life for her so she runs away across the dessert in the middle of the night in hopes of finding family in Mogadishu. She survives days in the heat without food or water and makes it to the city to find her family there and to start working to pay her way. While helping in her families household she manages to able to go to London to be the maid of her Uncle who happens to be the Somalian Ambassador in London.The next thing I felt was my flesh being cut away. I heard the blade sawing back and forth through my skin. The feeling was indescribable. I didn't move, telling myself the more I did, the longer the torture would take. Unfortunately, my legs began to quiver and shake uncontrollably of their own accord, and I prayed, Please, God, let it be over quickly. Soon it was, because I passed out.
London is an entire new world for Dirie as she learns about the luxuries they have such as huge beds. She runs the household schedule with breakfast and lunch and walking nieces to school each day. When the time comes to return to Somalia brave Waris refuses to go and is left behind alone in London. With no home and no job and a language barrier she sets out to make her way. A photographer named Terence Donovan who sees something in her and she ends up becoming the cover model of the 1987 Pirelli calendar and a star was born.
Waris has used this position to speak out about the pains and struggles she has had to endure because of female genital mutilation. She now speaks as the UN Special Ambassador for the elimination of female genital mutilation. She has also written several books, the latest being her autobiography Desert Flower.
Waris tells the following story in her interview,
I opened my eyes and was staring into the face of a lion. I tried to stand, but I hadn't eaten in days, so my weak legs wobbled and folded beneath me. I slumped back against the tree that had sheltered me from the merciless African sun. My long journey across the desert had come to an end. I was unafraid, ready to die. "Come and get me," I said to the lion. "I’m ready."
The big cat stared at me, and my eyes locked on his. He licked his lips and paced back and forth in front of me, elegantly, sensuously. He could crush me in an instant.Finally he turned and walked away, no doubt deciding that I had so little flesh, I wasn't worth eating.When I realized the lion was not going to kill me, I knew that God had something else planned, some reason to keep me alive. "What is it?" I asked as I struggled to my feet. "Direct me."
I think God did save her for something big in this world and she is a courageous woman that is making a difference with that life that was spared. If you are interested in some of the work Daris does she has created The Waris Dirie Foundation. Go there to see how you can help.