Instead of going out last night, I decided to have a night in with some DVD’s and my 2 boyfriends Ben and Jerry. For a long time I had been tiptoeing around the movie “Desert Flower”, based on the life of Somali model and human rights activist Waris Dirie. In the past I had always heard nothing but rave revies about the book, so at least now I had to see the movie.
The plot, based on the autobiographic novel with the same name as the film, tells the story of Waris, daughter of a nomad family, who got circumcised at the age of 3 and fled her family at 13, to avoid having to marry a much older man. She managed to fly to London in order to work as maid for some relatives of hers. 6 years later, she left the family and went on to work at a fast food restaurant where a famous photographer discovered her – the beginning of a successful modeling career for Waris.
The movie is extremely well made. It’s done up like a comedy, to take away some of the heavyness of the subject of female mutilation which probably helps making the movie accessible to a greater audience.
I am and always have been very emotionally touched by the unbelievable cruelty and injustice inflicted by female circumcision which affects approximately 300.000 girls every year. Although it is being incresingly recognized as wrong and made illegal by political leaders, there are still countries like the Sudan, Guinea or Egypt where over 90% of all women are circumcised. The road to wiping it out entirely is long but thanks to people like Waris Dirie, the word about it spreads and helps building pressure on the responsible governments to not only pass laws against FGC (Female Genital Mutilation) but to follow up on them as well.
What we can do to help
To me personally, teaching children and adults, is probably the most important type of developmental help because only by teaching people how to build a stable and functioning society will they eventually be able to sustain themselves and overcome outdated traditions that keep holding them back.
Having a look at the Amnesty International website helps in giving you more clues on how to help. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer and teach or support women and children in affected areas please read our article on volunteering.
I also believe that it is incredibly important for women like us – free, educated, wealthy, independant women – to travel to 3rd world countries just to be there and show the locals that there is a world in which women have the same rights as men. If you have the time and motivation to volunteer – even better, but if you don’t, I still think just being in countries where women are considered of lower value than men is a small but important message to the locals and might help shifting the image women have in those societies.
When traveling through India in particular, I made a point in wearing skirts at knee-length because where I am from, it is my freedom to do so. I made a point in traveling alone and telling locals that I was happily unmarried. At the time I spent the summer in India to teach German at Delhi University, and here too, I made a point in showing the local students what it means to be a woman in Europe or America, 2 continents that are admired internationally for their progress and wealth.
I’m happy and grateful for the life I have and the society I live in and it’s only normal to give something back and pave the way for those in need, just like the women who have paved the way for us.
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