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3 Women who Inspire Me – Waris Dirie

Cheat Sheet Principle of Life: That which does not kill us makes us stronger – Friedrich Nietzche


This post is the first part of the 3 parts. This post could be depressing for few.

I came to know about 3 wonderful women, through my best buddies, ‘books’.  These women inspire me because of the difficulties they faced in life and how they went on to become successful, in spite of their circumstances.

Waris Dirie (1965-Present, Model, Author, Actress, UN Special Ambassador, 1997-2003)

I read a short biography of Waris Dirie in a Reader’s Digest Magazine. I was about 10-12 years at that time.

Waris was born in 1965 in Galkayo, Somalia. She had to undergo genital mutilation (FGM) when she was 5 years old. This custom was practiced by their tribe. In the biography she writes about how FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is performed; with a razor, in unhygienic circumstances and without anesthesia. Many children die during the process.

At the age of 13, Waris was to be married to an old man. She fled from her home to Mogadishu, where she had her extended family. The distance between Galkayo to Mogadishu is 717 km (445 miles). She covered that distance mostly on foot, walking through the desert. She was exhausted, afraid and hungry.

During that journey, she came face to face with a Lion (An excerpt from her story).

“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.”

This incident raised her spirits and gave her the strength to complete the rest of the journey. She reached her extended family in Mogadishu.

She moved along with her family from Mogadishu to London. She worked as a family maid in London, took English classes and started working outside. She was spotted by a photographer, Terence Donovan, at the age of 18. He helped her to get on the Cover of 1987 Pirelli Calendar. Her modeling career took off from there. She also starred in the James Bond movie, ‘The Living Day Lights’.

Waris became a UN Ambassador for the abolition of FGM in 1996. She also set up Desert Flower Centers to help women who have suffered FGM. She wrote her biography, Desert Flower in 1997. She later released other successful books such as Desert Dawn, Letter To My Mother and Desert Children. Waris Dirie has received many prestigious awards for her work and her books.

Know more about Desert Flower Foundation here.

Waris Dirie was the woman who triggered my feminist genes. When I read Waris Dirie’s biography, I was a young girl who was just acquainted with my body parts. The practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) horrified me.

Waris Dirie’s  incredible journey from the nomadic life in deserts of Somalia to the world famous catwalks, inspires me.

The book, ‘Desert Flower’ is on my reading list. I will write about the second woman who inspires me, next week (on 15th Feb 2015).


Featured image from http://www.desertflowerfoundation.org/en/2013/12/05/the-british-guardian-nominates-waris-dirie-as-person-oft-he-year-2013/

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