Waris Dirie on the genital mutilation of African women
You chose to publicly talk about your circumcision to an NBC journalist while you were a famous model. Why did you decide to do so at that moment of your life?
It wasn't on that particular day that I decided! The actual day that changed my life, the day when I decided that I would talk about it, that I would fight for as long as I live, was the day when they mutilated me, when I was 3. It was that day that I decided on my purpose in life. Afterwards, I just waited for the right moment... and the moment came.
Female circumcision was something people didn't talk about. It was taboo, unknown even. Were you afraid of people's reactions? The risk to your career?
It never crossed my mind because all of that was so much greater than me! There are 1 million women and babies in the world screaming out because of circumcision. Nobody helps them, nobody speaks up for them. I knew about it and I thought about it all the time, it kept me awake at night. I couldn't see how I could do any different, I had to speak up. The rest, people's opinions... I didn't give a damn.
And the fact is, people gave me filthy looks, they appeared to be a bit disgusted. "What? You? Circumcised?!" People who I'd worked with for years have completely disappeared. Others were afraid... In reality, they were very ignorant people. They didn't know what to do, how to deal with it or what to say to me.
Actress Liya Kebede © Sipa