Monday, 15 June 2015

Book Review: Desert Children by Waris Dirie

U.N. Special Ambassador Waris Dirie was born to a family of tribal nomads in Somalia. She told her story—enduring female circumcision, fleeing through the desert, and, improbably, becoming a top model—in her first book, Desert Flower. In Desert Dawn, she wrote about her return to Somalia and her work as a U.N. Special Ambassador against FGM (female genital mutilation). Her latest book recounts her investigations into the practice of FGM in Europe—it is estimated that as many as 500,000 women and girls have undergone FGM or are at risk. Here are the voices of women who have felt emboldened by Waris Dirie’s courage.

My Review:
I was a great admirer of the work that Waris did and I very much enjoyed her first two books which I certainly recommend to readers. When I heard about a third book on FGM I was interested in reading it. Sadly I ended up angry and frustrated by the attitudes of Waris to Western people which bordered on racism. Not impressed at all by her now.

First thing is, I am totally opposed to FGM and I can't imagine the trauma of what these girls go through. I'm not against giving them medical help here in the UK and providing trauma therapy for their ordeal. I feel in cases where FGM is discovered, punishments need to be given. On this I agree with Waris. But I do not agree with the amount of blame that she unleashes on western governments and its people during her crusade.

Lets start with her attitude of 'do as I say, not as I do'. She talks about having a relaxed attitude to timekeeping and appointments, turning up whenever she feels like it. However, when the woman she is meeting is late, Waris makes a big fuss about there being no apology or reason given. So it is ok for Waris to do what she wants and be late but everyone else has to be on time to meet her. A bit of hypocrisy there. Still, that is a niggle and not part of my real complaints.

Waris clearly has it in for Western governments, blaming them for cases of FGM, blaming them for not doing enough. Funny, when we do intervene in African affairs we are told to mind our own business and that we don't understand African culture. If we don't intervene we are suddenly responsible for FGM and genocide and every other problem in Africa. We can't win. We give a lot of money for things like famine relief and medical care in Africa...where does that money go? It goes to government officials to buy private planes for its leaders instead of helping ordinary people. I suppose THAT is our fault as well.

Getting back to the point, I was getting pretty angry as I read on. Waris starts pointing the finger at western people for things like FGM. It seems that because we don't integrate African people into our society, they cling to traditions like FGM so it's our fault that girls are still being cut! That Waris, is a pile of steaming bullshit! A lot of African migrants don't speak English and don't WANT to be part of the local community, preferring to stick with a community of their own people. So how the hell am I meant to make friends and make them feel welcome when most aren't interested??? How is it MY fault that these families take the horrific step of mutilating their daughters??? How am I meant to know who is doing it and who to report them to? That is a bloody ridiculous thing to say!

Waris also blames us for not putting enough money towards FGM and other issues. Right. The people in Africa are the ones who are mutilating their daughters. Let Africa pay the money to re-educate people and pay for corrective surgery and other procedures! Let them police this! Most FGM is still happening in Africa itself with girls being sent home to stay with relatives where they can be cut, safe from western justice. So I say again, how is this all our fault Waris??? Are we meant to send troops into Africa to examine every girl and arrest countless parents? Oh please!

We are also not doing enough to stop FGM in our western countries. Right. These families pay women from their community to come and do the cutting. They don't tend to seek treatment in western hospitals for fear of the results of FGM being seen. They keep this secret in their own community. They don't cooperate with the police, social workers or health professionals . They don't shop others in their community. Yet Waris thinks we are doing nothing. She wants girls to be examined in schools for evidence of FGM! Are you serious??? Can you imagine the outrage it would cause if you take every girl who does not have white skin out of class for an examination like that??? Parents would go mental! And I expect the British taxpayer is expected to pay for it too.

Waris also complains about people not integrating in the community because they have no papers, living in grotty bedsits and are hiding like criminals, making them cling to the old traditions. They are ILLEGALS for fuck's sake! What are we meant to do, put them up in The Dorchester??? It's not our fault that they sneak into Britain and hide away and cut their daughters! We didn't put them there!

Waris needs to get her head out of her arse and point the finger in the right direction. It is the elders in the tribes and towns who tell parents that this tradition needs to be upheld. It is African governments who are not making FGM illegal or enforcing punishment. It is African communities in western countries who keep having their daughters cut and hushing it up. It is African people who are not telling the authorities about girls they know who are in danger. Perhaps Waris should concentrate on going to Africa and telling the people there to change their ways instead of blaming the countries who have taken in so many African refugees and given them a chance at a new life.

If they are all at grateful as Waris, maybe we shouldn't bother.  
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