닫기

Waris Dirie

SUNHAK PEACE PRIZE

Waris Dirie

Waris Dirie

Waris Dirie

Born 1965
Country Somalia
Awarded for A human rights activist who publicized the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to the world;
Advocating human rights of girls and women and calling for a worldwide resolution to eradicate FGM
Co-laureate
Waris Dirie was the first person in history to publicize to the world, the violence of FGM and saved millions of lives by taking a leading role in promoting anti-FGM campaign. She raised the issue of FGM as an international human rights agenda and assisted in passing a resolution banning its practice.

General Background

  • 1965 Born in Somalia (Exact birthday unknown)
  • Model, actress, activist, writer and UN Special Ambassador for the Elimination of FGM (1997-2003)
  • 2002Founded Desert Flower Foundation

Films and Books

  • 1987 Played a “Bond girl” in the film The Living Daylights.
  • 1997 Wrote the book Desert Flower (Her name, “Waris,” means “desert flower” in Somali).
    It has been published in 65 languages & sold more than 13 million copies around the world.
  • 2001 Wrote the book Desert Dawn.
  • 2005 Wrote the book Desert Children.
  • 2007 Wrote the book Letter to My Mother.
  • 2009 Co-produced the film Desert Flower, based on her book of the same name (Produced by Oscar Nominee Peter Hermann).
  • 2010 Wrote the book Schwarze Frau, Weißes Land.
  • 2013 Wrote the book Saving Safa: Rescuing a Little Girl from FGM.
  • 2017 Wrote the book My Africa-The Journey (For Children)

Awards

  • 1999 German Africa Award (Federal Republic of Germany)
  • 2000 Woman of the Year Award (Glamour Magazine)
  • 2002 Corine Literature Prize (German Book Trade)
  • 2004 Women’s World Award (Mikhail Gorbachev)
  • 2005 Bishop Oscar Romero Award (Catholic Church)
  • 2007 Legion of Honor (France)
  • 2007 Prix des Générations (World Demographic Association)
  • 2008 Martin Buber Gold Medal (Euriade Foundation)
  • 2010 Gold Medal of the President of the Republic of Italy (Contribution to human rights activism)
  • 2013 Woman of the Year for “Campaign work” (Woman of the Year Foundation)
  • 2017 Woman of the Year for “Women for Women” (Gala Magazine)
  • 2018 Woman of the Year (Valle d'Aosta Regional Council)
Leading the Campaign to Eradicate FGM by Raising Worldwide Awareness of FGM as a Violence and Human Rights Issue
Waris Dirie is the first person to draw the world’s attention to FGM as a human rights issue, because of its cruelty. In addition to causing extreme pain, this practice leads to many deaths due to high blood loss or infection. She has been leading anti-FGM campaign to eradicate cruel practice. Through her efforts, people around the world have started to view FGM as violence. The campaign saved millions of girls who were at the risk of the violent practice.

Born into a goat-herding nomad family in Somalia, she underwent female circumcision at the age of 5. In 1997, when her fashion career as a world-class supermodel was at its peak, she revealed her experience with FGM as a representative of all African women who had undergone the procedure and couldn’t tell anyone their story. This brave start led her to become a human rights activist to end the barbaric practice that are thriving in Africa. She was then appointed as a first Special Ambassador to the United Nations for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation in 1997. Since then, she has been putting tireless efforts in anti-FGM Campaign.

As a result of her efforts, 15 African Union member countries ratified the Maputo Protocol, which in Article 5 lists FGM as a harmful practice that must be ended. In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution banning the practice and has set a goal to eliminate FGM by 2030. This innovative milestone saved the lives of millions of girls who were at the risk the violent practice.

Female Genital Mutilation, or female circumcision, is a traditional ritual in which the external female genitalia are cut or removed for non-medical reasons and the operated area is sewn together, leaving a tiny hole. Although this ritual has been practiced for over 3,000 years, it doesn’t have any medical benefits. This barbaric practice is a crime and against humanity, which often causes infertility, problems with urination, high blood loss, infections and in some cases even death.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 200 million girls and women have been affected by FGM, which is prevalent in more than 30 countries, including parts of Africa and the Middle East. Yearly, about 3.5 million and daily about 9,800 girls and women’s lives are threatened by the brutal practice. Also, due to the increase of the immigration rate, countries in Europe, the USA and Asia are being affected by FGM.

In 2002, Waris Dirie established the Desert Flower Foundation, named for the English translation of her first name, to actively promote the eradication of FGM around the world. Her first book, Desert Flower, published in 1997, contains her life and experiences and has been translated into many languages and sold around the world. A major featured film based on her book, also named Desert Flower, was released in 2009. It has been shown in 40 countries around the world, including by international NGOs such as UNHCR and UNICEF, further raising awareness of FGM. These films and books are playing a major role in raising worldwide awareness of FGM and in changing people’s perspective toward FGM.

Al Jazeera, the largest broadcasting company in the Arab world, invited Waris Dirie to be interviewed on journalist Riz Khan’s program—the first TV program in the Arab world to raise the issue of FGM. In the interview she presented the dangers of FGM and asked everyone to help eradicate the practice. This TV program, which was viewed by 200 million people, brought an opportunity for FGM to be handled publicly as a human rights issue in the Arab world. Waris Dirie states, “Communities need to be educated in the fact that FGM is not prescribed by any religion and it is not part of a culture.” There was a time when her bold statements and actions led to her receiving threats. However, she has continued to lead the campaign to eradicate FGM, even at the risk of her life.

Because of her achievements, she received the Oscar Romero Award presented by the Catholic Men’s Movement in 2007, and she also received the Legion of Honor award from the French government.
Healing Hearts and Bodies of Victims of FGM through Reconstructive Surgery
Waris Dirie provides reconstructive surgery and comprehensive cure for victims of FGM, who are physically and psychologically damaged by the brutal practice. In 2013, the Desert Flower Foundation partnered with the Waldfriede Hospital of Berlin to open the first Desert Flower Center, which provides comprehensive treatments for victims of FGM. Currently, the centers operate in Paris, Berlin, Stockholm and Amsterdam with a medical team of 120 doctors, nurses and staff. The centers provide physiological support, reconstructive surgeries, career training, and educational materials.

FGM usually is done at home without any medical device. When a girl or a woman experiences the procedure, there is a high chance of developing an “obstetric fistula,” an abnormal opening between the genital and urinary tracts. Girls and women who are affected by an obstetric fistula can suffer from incontinence of urine or feces, causing various infections, extreme menstrual cramps and obstructed labor, which also can lead to infertility.

When Waris Dirie first opened the Desert Flower Reconstructive Centers, her goal was to provide educational materials for civil society groups and academic institutions to prepare as many doctors as possible to perform reconstructive surgery. The centers have provided education in FGM reconstructive surgery to doctors and obstetricians. So far, medical teams from France, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, Italy, Morocco, Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom have participated in the education and have performed the reconstructive surgery on FGM victims in their own countries.
Providing Fundamental Solutions to the Eradication of FGM through Education and Financial Support
Many countries changed their laws to ban FGM after the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution banning the practice. However, the practice is still being done around the world, even risking victims’ lives. Waris Dirie grasped that the practice is still carried out due to the “financial benefit” to families from selling their daughters at high cost, not because of tradition or culture. Therefore, as a fundamental solution to the issue, she is at the forefront of helping victims to stand independently, by providing basic literacy education and career education.

The Desert Flower Foundation runs a sponsorship program called “Save a Little Desert Flower,” which protects girls in Sierra Leone and Djibouti from FGM by providing funds for education. Also, Waris Dirie started another program called “Education Initiative” to lower the child illiteracy rate. In 2018, she started to built an elementary school in Sierra Leone to raise children’s basic literacy. In addition, she started a pilot project in many corners of Africa, called “Together for African Women,” for women’s education, career training and guaranteed income. She is also working on a project with fair-trade companies in Ethiopia and Kenya that produce scarves and other fair-trade products to provide employment to thousands.

Waris Dirie states, “My goal is to help the women of Africa. I want to see them get stronger, not weaker, and the practice of FGM simply weakens them physically and emotionally. Since women are the backbone of Africa, and they do most of the work, I like to imagine how much they could accomplish if they weren’t butchered as children and left to function maimed for the rest of their lives.” Waris Dirie is calling out passionately that eradicating FGM can empower and expand the rights of women and transform Africa.

Awarding of Medal and Plaque to Ms. Waris Dirie

  • Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon awarding a medal to Ms. Waris Dirie.

    ⓒ 2019. Sunhak Peace Prize

  • Committee Chairman Dr. Il Sik Hong presenting the plaque to Ms. Waris Dirie.

    ⓒ 2019. Sunhak Peace Prize

Video of the awarding

Acceptance Speech

  • ⓒ 2019. Sunhak Peace Prize

수상연설 영상

수상연설

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is an honour for me to receive the Sunhak Peace Prize.

I wish to thank Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon for devoting their lives to achieving universal peace and promoting the fundamental values of peace, dialogue and cooperation in the name of the human family.

I'm from Somalia, a country where one of the longest and bloodiest civil wars of our time is still going on since 1991.

Somalia, a country plagued by drought and famine.
Somalia, a country with one of the highest birth rates and one that has the highest child and mother mortality rates in the world.
Somalia, a country where only one out of three citizens has learned how to read and write.
Somalia, a country where women are neither thanked nor respected, and where 98% of women are suffered, and are still suffering, under the inhumane torture of Female Genital Mutilation.
Many years ago, I left Somalia because I did not want to be married as a 13-year-old girl to a man who could have been my grandfather.
I had to leave my beloved mother, my family and the desert, from which I have learned so much.

It was a goodbye forever.
I could not and did not want to live in a society where women do not have any rights.
I did not want to live in a society where it was ok to beat up women, to rape them, to sell them and to send a woman away once you have enough of her.
I left my home being absolutely determined that one day I will fight against all this injustice and that I will fight for the rights of girls and women.
In England, where my journey took me for a few years, I taught myself how to read and write. As a girl, I have never had the chance to visit school in Somalia.
To become financially independent, I worked during the day as a cleaning lady and studied in the nights.
One day in London, by coincidence, I was discovered as a model by Terence Donovan, the Buckingham Palace photographer, in a fast food restaurant, while I was scrubbing the floor.
The dream of so many girls came true for me. Soon my face graced the covers of big fashion- and women’s magazines. The worldwide most famous fashion and beauty brands booked me for their campaigns.
I was travelling around the world, saw the most beautiful places, experienced wealth and glamour, lived in New York and London, and even acted in a James Bond movie.
But I never forgot about my roots and my humanitarian mission.

I have seen and experienced inconceivable violence.
As a child, I almost died after the cruel torture of female genital mutilation.
I asked myself why people engage each other in such cruel ways.
It cannot be the will of a good God, that we humiliate each other, kill and torture each other.
We are the ones making this world a living hell for others, and even for ourselves.

And I have asked myself – why?
Do we love each other too little?
Do we love ourselves too little?
Do we respect each other too little?
Do we respect ourselves too little?
Are those the reasons why all this cruel and evil is happening?
When and where do we learn love and respect?

First with our mothers. Mothers have a big responsibility. Because all their love and care, which we receive as children, shape us - forever.
Mothers and, of course, fathers teach us how to respect ourselves and above all to respect others and Mother Earth.
And here, in parenting, it is where peace begins in ourselves and hence the peaceful coexistence with others.
If we, as parents, neglect our children, do not love them and forget to teach them to respect, we put peace at risk.
After that, it is the job of our education system to teach peace, to not only demand respect from our students, but also to treat them with love and respect.
When our global community reaches this goal, a very big step towards peace is done.
I know that it is possible and I know we can do it together.
For me, John Lennon's composition "Imagine" is the greatest peace-song ever written.
“Imagine all the people living life in peace!
You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one.

I hope one day you will join us and the world will live as one ” is sung by one of the greatest artists and peace activists of all times and I have taken this words to heart.
Dear John, no you are not alone, many people share your dream. All they want is world peace - peace between us and nations and peoples and religions .
Peace in our homes and in our hearts.
In remembrance of you, great John Lennon, and all those people, dreaming every day of a world in peace, like you did, contributing to this mission, I accept with lots of love and respect the Sunhak Peace Prize 2019.

Love and Peace to the world!

Statement upon laureate announcement

What peace means to me



I'm from Somalia, a country where the longest and bloodiest civil wars of our time is going on since 1991.
Somalia, it is a country plagued by drought and famine.
Somalia, a country with one of the highest birth rates and one of the highest child and mother mortality rates in the world.
Somalia, a country where only one out of three citizens have learned how to read and write.
Somalia, a country where women neither are thanked nor respected, and where 98% of women have suffered, and are still suffering, under the inhuman torture of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Many years ago I left Somalia because I did not want to be married as a 13-year-old girl to a man who could have been my grandfather.
I had to leave my beloved mother, my family and the desert, from which I have learned so much.
It was a goodbye forever.
I could not and did not want to live in a society where women do not have any rights.
I did not want to live in a society where it was okay to beat up women, to rape them, to sell them and to send a woman away once you have enough of her.
I left my home being absolutely determined that one day I will fight against all this injustice and that I will fight for the rights of girls and women.
In England, where my journey took me for a few years, I taught myself how to read and write. As a girl, I have never had the chance to visit school in Somalia.
To become financially independent, I worked during the day as a cleaning lady and studied in the nights.
One day in London, by coincidence, I was discovered as a model by Terence Donovan, the Buckingham Palace photographer, in a fast food restaurant, while I was scrubbing the floor.
The dream of so many girls came true for me. Soon my face graced the covers of big fashion-magazines and women’s magazines. The worldwide most famous fashion, jewelry and cosmetic brands booked me for their campaigns.
I was jetting around the world, saw the most beautiful places, experienced wealth and glamour, lived in New York and London, and even acted in a James Bond movie.
But I never forgot about my roots and my humanitarian mission.
I have seen and experienced inconceivable violence.
As a child, I almost died after the cruel torture of female genital mutilation (FGM).
I asked myself why people engage each other in such cruel ways.
It cannot be the will of a good God, that we humiliate each other, kill and torture each other.
We are the ones making this world a living hell for others, and even for ourselves.
And I have asked myself – why?
Do we love each other too little?
Do we love ourselves too little?
Do we respect each other too little?
Do we respect ourselves too little?
Are those the reasons why all this cruel and evil is happening?
When and where do we learn love and respect?
First with our mothers. Mothers have a big responsibility. Because all their love and care, which we receive as children, shape us forever.
Mothers and, of course, fathers teach us how to respect ourselves and above all to respect others and Mother Earth.
And here, in parenting, it is where peace begins in ourselves and hence the peaceful coexistence with others.
If we, as parents, neglect our children, do not love them and forget to teach them respect, we put peace at risk.
After that, it is the job of our education system to teach peace, to not only demand respect from our students, but also to treat them with love and respect.
When our global community reaches this goal, a very big step towards peace is done.
I know that it is possible and I know we can do it together.
For me, John Lennon's composition "Imagine" is the greatest peace-song ever written.
“Imagine all the people living life in peace!
You may say I am a dreamer but I am not the only one.
I hope one day you will join us and the world will live as one ” is sung by one of the greatest artists and peace activists of all times and I have taken this words to heart.
Dear John, no you are not alone, many people share your dream.
All they want is world peace - peace between us and nations and peoples and religions.
Peace in our homes and in our hearts.
In remembrance of you, great John Lennon, and all those people, dreaming every day of a world in peace, like you did, contributing to this mission, I accept with lots of love and respect the Sunhak Peace Prize 2019.
Love and Peace to the world!
Waris Dirie
November 14, 2018.
8F, 34 Mapo-Daero, Mapo-Gu, Seoul, Korea 121-728 Sunhak Peace Prize Committee     Tel: 02-3278-5160
Fax: 02-3278-5198     E-mail: sunhakprize@gmail.com
Copyright ©2017 SUNHAK PEACE PRIZE All rights reserved.
-->