Waris Dirie was born in 1965 at Gallacaio desert, Somalia. She is one of twelve children born to a nomad family. She was a model, currently a writer and a social activist.
Waris’ journey through life has been inspiring. She shows that the leadership journey is sometimes filled with bumps but with determination and courage, you can succeed. Here are things we found about Waris Dirie and how they have made her one of our extraordinary voices.

[Tweet “Waris’ journey through life has been inspiring. She shows that the leadership journey is sometimes filled with bumps but with determination and courage, you can succeed”]

Outstanding Courage

[Tweet “Waris Dirie ran barefooted for several days across the desert to Mogadishu at 13 to avoid her arranged marriage to a man of over 60 years”]

From an early age, she has shown outstanding courage. In an interview, she described herself as being strong-willed and determined and not the type of child her traditional parents wanted.

She showed how courageous and strong willed she was when she ran barefooted for several days across the desert to Mogadishu at 13 to avoid her arranged marriage to a man of over 60 years.

[Tweet “I knew there was so much I could do with my life, but on my terms – @Waris_Dirie”]

In an interview with the guardian she said “I knew [most married women in her 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.” The thought of her being more than a child bride pushed her to make the courageous decision to run away from home and become more.

Her fight Against Female Genital Mutilation

At the age of 5, she underwent the gruesome ordeal of female genital mutilation, she was left in a makeshift shelter under a tree for several days to recover. Due to the physical and emotional turmoil she went through after being mutilated, she has spent her time fighting against FGM.

In 1997, she abandoned her modeling job to focus on her work against FGM. She said in an interview with ventures Africa; “…I was meant to survive everything I did so that one day I could speak out about this torture and fight for little girls out there who are not able to fight on their own!” Her fight led her to start the Desert Flower Foundation which advocates for the abolition of FGM. Still in an interview, she highlights; “…No innocent little girl should go through this kind of unnecessary cruel pain.”

She also started a medical centre in Berlin which is solely to offer reconstructive surgery to women who have gone through FGM and even with that, she says; “I don’t want to put too much focus on it, because the whole point is to stop this mutilation in the first place. We don’t have to have special hospitals to reconstruct a God-given thing”

[Tweet “I would like the world to remember me for my fight against FGM and as a survivor who never gave up… – @Waris_Dirie”]

Advocacy Through Writing

Waris is not only an activist against FGM, a former model, but she’s also an author. She has written several books such as Desert Flower, Desert Dawn, Letters to My Mother, Desert Children. Her books highlight her ordeal and also sets out to educate people on the dangers of female genital mutilation to young girls. She hopes that through her books, the world can become aware of the fact that FGM still exist and that thousands of women and girls go through it. Hence, why she said; “ I wanted to reach people through my story; I wanted them to know about the pain and suffering that thousands of girls and women have to go through every day…”

Her journey has not been easy. From a young girl who suffered mutilation, to a teen who for several days had to run barefooted to avoid child marriage, working as a maid, her story is inspiring as the bumps didn’t stop her from doing what she says is her mission. About bringing an end to FGM, she has this to say; “I can’t turn back, not now I’m almost there. You just have to keep going until one day it will come to an end.”

She also inspires us to never give up on our dreams “I would like the world to remember me for my fight against FGM and for the women of Africa, and then I would like to be remembered as a survivor who never gave up…as I wish the people in this world would never give up on their dreams, their hopes and their life happiness.”

She is one of the 30 Extraordinary Voices featured in the Women’s Month Series by AWLO. Click on your favorite social media button below to share if you have been inspired by Waris Dirie.