"Flower of the Desert" presented in Djibouti
DJIBOUTI – In the black and ochres rock of Djibouti, a small girl helps a goat to give birth: it’s the first scene of "Desert Flower", presented Saturday evening in Djibouti, where the film was partly made.
- "We promised to come back with the film once it was finished, the promise was kept by the producer Peter Hermann, and director Sherry Hormann" explains Sylvia Montalto, head of production.
- "Desert Flower" is taken from the eponymous book by Waris Dirie, a Somali topmodel who recounts her amazing journey from the Somali plains to the podium of the biggest fashion capitals.
- More importantly, this autobiographical bestseller is a moving plea against female circumcision, widely practiced in the Horn of Africa including Djibouti.
- "There was an early commitment of the director and producer, making this film, like the book by Waris, a tool for awareness against female circumcision," said Ms. Montalto.
- The film - released last month in Europe - will be screened several times in Djibouti, at the French Institute Arthur Rimbaud, but also in remote areas of the country that served as scenery for the film.
- The first in the capital was attended by over 200 people, mostly women and young girls, sometimes shy, sometimes very moved by a daily reality starkly presented in the film.
- "This film gives a strong message that changes lives. Excision is to abolish it's disgusting," says Suraya Mohamed, 14, who plays teenage Waris Dirie in the film.
- "Around us we do not talk about, it's a delicate subject. We do not know what is cut. The film will not stop the circumcision, but at least reduce the practice," the girl timidly hoped.
- For Ms. Degmo Mohamed Issack, presidential parliamentary majority member, secretary general of the National Union of Djiboutian Women (UNFD) struggling against female circumcision, and vice-president of the National Commission on Human Rights, "the problem is in the application of the law."
- "Djibouti has developed since 1994 a law prohibiting female circumcision (...) but (...) has never been applied because before a child was too small to legally testify. In 2009 I took up the text passed by the parliament (...). Now, the victim, or an association or any other person may complain," she says.
- Yet the practice is slow to decline and the official figures are unreliable. The Minister of Youth and Sports, Barkad Hasna Daoud says that "many actions have been completed, the results are clear: 55% of girls aged 7 to 12 have not been circumcised.
- But for Ms. Issack, "there is no reliable figure. This study was conducted in schools on a too small sample. In urban areas it has decreased, but not in rural areas. Those who (...) consider the fight against female circumcision as an emergency are not many".
- According to UNICEF, 93% of women (15-49) in Djibouti were mutilated, and 49% of girls in 2007.
- The scene of the film presents the impact the excision of Waris Dirie, played by the small Safa Idriss Nour, 5, the normal age of the ceremony in Djibouti.
- "We'll take care of schooling of this little girl through the production and foundations of Liya Kebede (Ethiopian actress who plays the major role) and Waris Dirie," says Ms. Montalto.
- "It is a drop in the ocean but we hope it will take over when she is older as did Waris, and shall have the right to be a woman."
- Ennaharonline/ M. O.