Words Kiran Yoliswa
Having fled Somalia for London at the age of 13 to escape a forced marriage, Waris Dirie went on to model for L’Oréal, Chanel and Revlon. She is widely credited with raising public awareness of female genital mutilation (FGM) through her Desert Flower Foundation and is UN Ambassador for the elimination of FGM. Dirie’s memoir, Desert Flower, was an international bestseller and adapted into a film.
What drives you?
There is not enough love and respect on our planet. I'm a fighter for love and respect – for girls, women, all human beings, animals, nature.
What do you see as the future of Africa?
Women are the backbone of Africa. They will take over, otherwise I don't see a bright future.
What are the main misconceptions when it comes to women in your industry?
I'm happy with my job as a writer. As a so-called former supermodel I had the chance to travel the world, to see the most beautiful places and get paid for photoshoots. That was great, even if it was a superficial world. Unfortunately too many little girls and boys are dreaming of a career as a model and many of them are getting exploited by so-called model agents or wannabe-photographers.
What advice do you have for anyone starting out in your industry?
Trust in yourself and never give up. Everyone gets a chance in life, but in this business you need a lot of luck too.
What are the main challenges you find yourself facing?
Raising my two boys and the two children I have adopted from my brother. And to eradicate the worst crime on women, female genital mutilation.
In boardrooms and parliaments, on television and the stage, women are increasingly making their presence felt across Africa and on the world stage. The inaugural ARISE 100 list champions just some of the remarkable women shaping modern Africa today.