Meet WARIS DIRIE, An author and women’s rights activist raising awareness about the dangers of female genital mutilation (FGM)

Waris Dirie, a Somalian fashion model, author, and women’s rights activist known for her efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM), also called female circumcision was born in Galkayo, Somalia in 1965 to a nomadic tribe. At the age of five years, she suffered the inhumane procedure of female genital mutilation.

Dirie was one of 12 children born into a large nomadic family living near Somalia’s border with Ethiopia. Much of Dirie’s childhood was spent tending to the family’s herd and obtaining enough food and water to survive. At about age 13, she ran away from home to avoid an arranged marriage with a much older man; she embarked on a long and treacherous journey that took her through the desert to Mogadishu and, from there, eventually to London to serve as a maid in the home of an uncle who was beginning a term as an ambassador. When his tenure ended, Dirie decided to stay in London illegally.

She was illiterate, but she found work in the kitchen of a fast-food restaurant and a room in a facility run by the YMCA, and she took classes to learn to read and write English.

She worked at McDonald’s to make money and eventually got discovered by a photographer and her modeling career was launched.  But this career did not come easily.  Her biggest challenge was over her passport. She did not have a passport in London and therefore could not travel out of the country to model.  To find ways to travel, she committed identity fraud, trusted shady lawyers who stole all her money, and eventually married a British citizen who became obsessive and dangerous to Dirie and her future.


Eventually, she was able to find a legitimate passport and her career was a great success.  She worked with Iman, Naomi Campbell, and Cindy Crawford.  She traveled to New York, Paris, Milan, and all over the world for modeling shoots and fashion shows.  


Dirie met her husband, Dana, in New York and they quickly married and have a child Aleeke.  

Dirie’s story received a lot of media attention and the BBC network approached her to make a documentary based on her life.  Dirie agreed as long as they promised to find her mother, who she had not seen since she ran away from home at the age of 13.  Eventually, they found her mother and the two were reunited near the border to Somalia and Ethiopia.    


Today, Dirie is an activist against female circumcision and is the UN Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation.  She also founded the Desert Flower Foundation which raises awareness about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation.  

This article was culled from

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