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Comeback of Waris Dirie to the Fashion World after 20 Years

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Write SHPP Date19-04-19 16:52 Hit909


Feminist Waris Dirie Poses in Lingerie After 20 Years

EL PAIS 2019.04.03


The Somali model and activist, who suffered from genital mutilation at five years old returns to her job for charity: "Fashion has to play a role in women's rights“
For Waris Dirie, 54, posing in front of a photographer's lens is like riding a bicycle, one of those things that are never forgotten. "I'm more comfortable in front of the camera than anywhere else. This was my job, I know how it works. And I feel comfortable with myself and my body," she explains to EL PAÍS. The Somali activist for human rights has spent the last 20 years devoted exclusively to the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a brutal practice that causes not –to-death but serious physical and psychological problems and to which it has been subjected, according to the WHO, to 200 million girls and boys around the world. But until the 1990s, Waris was a quoted model at Revlon, who also paraded for Galliano, posed for Chanel, and appeared in magazines like Vogue. The world discovered her thanks to photographer Terence Donovan, who chose her for the cover of the Pirelli calendar of 1987. And now it has been another Briton, Rankin, who is in charge of portraying her with items from the Icons collection of the luxury lingerie brand and store Coco of Mer.
Its CEO, Lucy Litwack, got in touch with Dirie's foundation, Desert Flower, to propose a collaboration that would help spread her message to a new audience. In addition, part of the profits from sales will go to support the crusade of the Somali activist, who was subjected to genital mutilation at five years and, at 13, ran away from home to avoid a forced marriage to a man four times her age. "Coco de Mer has always represented female empowerment and the importance of pleasure," says Litwack. And female genital mutilation (FGM) seeks to deprive women of control and power over their bodies and sexuality.“
Waris Dirie said goodbye to fashion just as she had burst into it: posing for the Pirelli calendar in 1987. It took her a decade to understand that this work was never going to be rewarding enough, and she still looks at the industry with suspicion: "Fashion has an important role to play in terms of women's rights; it exerts a great influence on young girls, but it can be a dangerous place because they flatter you, and you do not know what is real and what is not,“ she says. "There are things that are changing. There are more races and types of women on the catwalk, but there is still a lack of diversity. There are hardly any black designers; white people make their clothes and hope that everyone likes them.“
In 2020, her best-selling autobiography, Flor del desierto (desert flower), which was made into a film in 2009 starring the model Liya Kebede, will be released as a musical in Switzerland. A project that speaks with some ambivalence: "It is very exciting. But do you know what I feel? That my story will never leave me alone, that it will persecute me forever. If it helps someone, if it can give strength to another girl, then it's okay, let it continue. But I'm tired of this story." She says she is planning a new book, this time on beauty : "About what it really means. Because beauty is millions of things, not just one."
In 1987 she landed a small role in a James Bond film, 007: High Tension, and would have liked to continue exploring the interpretation. But she didn’t. "I felt that Africa needed me more than anything else, even than myself. Because I do not need much, I'm not the kind of person who seeks fame and fortune." Now, for the first time, she believes that the end of his mission could be close and, with it, the possibility of trying new things: "I am very creative. I paint, I write and I would love to direct; I have good vision and a quick eye. I also want to design. I am very close to being able to do it, although I also enjoy helping others. The day I do not smile at someone does not feel good, it's like I'm missing something."
For FGM to be completely eradicated, Dirie considers girls' education essential: "Knowledge is power. Africa will not change as long as African women are deprived of education. My own mother had no idea of ​​the terrible things she did to her daughters throughout her life; I thought she was doing an incredible job, and until recently she did not understand that she had actually damaged and disfigured us." Therefore, the main task of its foundation is to create schools; it has already started in Sierra Leone (where nine of every 10 girls are mutilated, although since January the practice is no longer legal) and they want to continue with the rest of Africa, for which they will use the million dollars the Sunhak Peace Prize has endowed at South Korea.
Between 1997 and 2003, Dirie acted as special ambassador of the UN for the elimination of FGM, but today she does not have good words for the organization: "In my foundation we are doing what they are supposed to do. The truth is that I am not happy with the UN, I do not believe that women's problems are taken seriously."
Dirie lives in Vienna and is the mother of two children aged 22 and 10 who are educated in feminism. "Respect and love are two words that we do not stop haring," she says. But she also has reservations about the manifestations of International Women's Day : "But, why have they taken so long? It is good to stand up, join, manifest, but we have to do it 24 hours a day, every day, until they hear us. Do not stop, do not sleep. Do not do it today because it is the day of the woman, and do nothing tomorrow. That makes no sense".

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