Waris Dirie

A desert flower who had to travel a great distance before she could truly blossom. And help other people at the same time.

A young girl consumed by fear. Laying on her back, with no idea what was happening to her. And then the pain. A procedure that countless young girls in Africa continue to endure to this day. Waris Dirie was one of them. A victim of female genital mutilation. And life was no kinder to her after. At the tender age of 14 she was forced into marriage with a man who was old enough to be her grandfather. But she chose a different route. Leaving everything she knew behind, she escaped to London, where a chance encounter with a star photographer would eventually see her appear on the Pirelli calendar.

The high point of many a model’s career. But not for Waris. She used her profile to draw attention to female genital mutilation (FGM). In 2002 she founded the Desert Flower Foundation, which collected money to help those affected by FGM. Travelling from country to country, she gave speeches, shook hands and did everything she could to make people sit up and take notice of the issue. A strong woman whose story fills books and films. And helps girls from backgrounds like hers on their way to a better life.