Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Desert Flower, Desert Rose

It's not for nothing that the term 'woman of subsatnce' was coined. Women, all women, really are made of substance - some just more than others.

I was reading model, Waris Dirie's story online recently and was shocked at how much she has been through and has still managed to carve out a constructive life for herself.

She was born into a nomadic African tribe and her childhood home consisted of a portable grass hut. At the age of five, she recalls being held down by her mother while another woman cut away her genitals. She was tightly stitched up afterwards, leaving an opening only the size of a matchstick that naturally made it difficult to even walk. Imagine being robbed of your womanhood.

Though she managed to survive this brutality, her sister and two cousins were not so lucky. At 13, she fled Africa after being promised to a 61-year old man in marriage in exchange for five camels. The limits that those in power in a male-dominated society are capable of pushing is distressing. Suppression of women is seen as almost a validation of that power.

Waris reached Britain, where she stayed illegally for a while, surviving by scrubbing floors at McDonald's until she was dicovered by photographer, Terence Donovan, who put her face on the cover of the Pirelli calendar. It's amazing how much she had to do at such a young age in order to have a shot at a semblance of a normal life.

Today, she spearheads a strong campaign against female genital mutiliation.

Women like Waris inspire others to challenge themselves.

I salute her courage, her spirit, her woman.

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