THE GOOD FIGHT: Activist, author and model Waris Dirie is stepping in front of the lens after a 20-year hiatus from modeling, collaborating with the lingerie brand Coco de Mer to spread awareness about female genital mutilation.
Dirie herself is a victim of FGM and has been working for 25 years to abolish the practice, which is illegal in Western nations including Britain, but still practiced in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In 2002, Dirie founded the Desert Flower Foundation to educate and provide support to women affected by FGM. As a result of her advocacy, FGM rates in Africa have gone from 70 percent to 7 percent, according to Dirie.
In the campaign videos, Dirie stands looking at the camera with a flower in her hand, a symbol of the female genitalia and of her foundation. In the video, she’s eventually joined by women, children and men. “It’s not just a women’s fight, it’s a fight for everyone,” said Lucy Litwak, ceo of Coco de Mer.
The campaign images, shot by Rankin, see the model wearing pieces from Coco De Mer’s Icons collection.
“As a brand Coco de Mer always stood for female empowerment and the importance of female pleasure and with FGM being a direct disabler of that, it felt that it was something we wanted to be able to do to bring more awareness,” said Lucy Litwack, ceo of Coco de Mer.
Litwack said she hopes to raise awareness and to foster discussions to find a solution to end FGM. For Dirie, her ultimate goal is to collect 10 million signatures by the end of 2019 to present to the United Nations.
Last month, a woman was found guilty for practicing FGM on her daughter in the U.K. She is the first person in the U.K. to be convicted of the crime, which is considered child abuse.
“I need 10 million signatures now so I can bring it to the UN and say, ‘Here it is, the world is ready to stand against this,” because it’s shocking that I’m still trying to convince the world that this is a crime against children,” Dirie said.
Although change is slow, Dirie’s foundation has already supported more than 1,000 girls who have been victims of FGM by providing them with education. According to Dirie, education is the best way to empower a girl.
For Litwack, the fight has also just begun. “The campaign will obviously go for as long as we can get it to go but we’ll continue to use these images and brainstorm what more we can do to help the fight. We’re really passionate about the project and we want to make a better world for women and for girls,” she said.