by Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik e.V. – A very important interview with Waris Dirie of the Association Desert Flower (Wüstenblume) in Vienna. Her books, her movie and her tireless campaign against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) all over the world are well known. I would like to thank Waris for her time. Please carry on!! The struggle against FGM must go on until the last desert flower is saved from this horrible ritual. We have to fight together to put an end to this horrific violence by women against women. FGM concerns us all.
Milena Rampoldi: Why must the struggle against FGM continue despite the setbacks and widespread indifference?
Waris Dirie: A couple of days ago the United Nations revised their number of 130 million women affected by FGM that had been published for 15 years upwards. According to the UN’s latest figures at least 200 million women are victims of FGM. However, the actual number is likely to be much higher since the data from the South East Asian states such as Indonesia, Malaysia or countries like Pakistan and India, Iraq, Iran and Syria were not or only partially collected, even though this cruel practice is also widespread in these countries. According to UNICEF, 30 million girls in Africa are threatened by FGM! According to the EU’s latest estimates at least 1 million affected women live in Europe, and FGM is also practised in Europe. The US organisation “Equality Now“ estimates that there are between 500.000 and 1 million affected women in the USA. The terrible and sad thing is the indifference of politicians. Beyond some rhetoric and sending out press releases nothing is done to protect millions of small girls from this brutal crime and to ensure medical care for the victims. The struggle against FGM must be continued and can only be won if everyone gets involved!
MR: How important is information in the West about this subject?
WD: What we need is information and strict laws that are applied so that the perpetrators see that mutilating small girls is not tolerated and that you will be severely punished for it. Otherwise, nothing will ever change.
MR: To me FGM is the complete degradation and incapacitation of a woman. What is your opinion?
WD: It is the most cynical crime against young girls, a grave violation of human rights. The girls are broken, emotionally destroyed and made submissive so at they function according to the beliefs of the societies they are from. FGM is totally unjustifiable.
MR: What are the main obstacles in the countries where this brutal tradition is continued?
WD: Complete ignorance of human rights and a terribly low position of women in these societies. You can buy a woman, rape her, hit her, and if you do not want her any more you can kick her out with the children. However, at the same time women are the family and economic backbone of these societies.
MR: FGM is also violence by women against women. What do you think about this definition?
WD: Of course. The social pressure is enormous. You do what you are supposed to do. Even as a young girl you are told that you are worthless. Many affected women have lost any self-esteem and they often develop a massive hatred of themselves.
MR: What do you wish for the new generations of African girls and women?
WD: Love, respect, an education, their own income and being in control of their own lives.