I'm currently reading (re-reading actually) a book entitled 'Desert Flower', an autobiography by Waris Dirie. Easy reading, interesting story. Waris was born in 1965 in Somalia to a nomadic family. At age 13, she ran away, when her father tried to marry her off to a 60-years old man for an exchange of five camels. Boleh tahan mahal jugak duit hantaran dia, for an uneducated desert girl, as I'm told by someone who went to Egypt last year, that the market price for a camel is USD650. Translate the five camels to Ringgit Malaysia... and men here complain that the local girls's hantaran costs too much.. hmmph.
Back to Waris, she made it from the desert to the capital (Mogadishu) and all the way to Britain, through a series of fortunate events and help from some kind souls. By chance, a photographer took a picture of her and stuck it in a magazine, and wallah! She became a supermodel. Man, talk about being at the right place at the right time! Waris is now based in New York, married and with child(ren?) She has resigned from modelling though, and is actively involved as a UN special embassador, campaigning for African women's rights, particularly against female genital mutilation as practiced in some parts of Africa and the Middle East.
Actually, it's circumcision. Oh hey, if you are prone to flaming cheeks when viewing anything remotely connected with s-e-x, you may stop reading here, even though there's nothing 'dirty' about this posting. And you shouldn't watch MTV either, ya?
OK, circumcision. Over here it is a mere nick on the clitoris (are you still reading? you have been forewarned...) buat syarat je. But over there as experienced by Waris herself, it involves cutting off the whole clitoris, the labia minora and a part of the labia majora, then stitching the remaining parts together and leaving a tiny tiny hole for her urine and menstrual blood to flow out, drop by drop. All this done in the middle of the desert in a most unsanitary way, with a rusty blade and no aenesthetics nor painkillers thereafter. Many girls have succumbed to septicaemia or excessive bleeding, and die within days. This practice is also known as infibulation. It is supposedly done to ensure girls remain virgins until their wedding night. Bollocks! It's just male empowerment, innit? Sex is a two-way thing. The more effective method would be to cut of the sexist's thingy muaaahahahaa... *evil laugh*
OK, seriously folks, reading this book reminds me to be thankful for what I have. Despite Waris's graphic descriptions, I can't imagine a life (for me) without the basic comforts of running water and electricity, never mind the Tiffany accessories or dinner at La Bodega :-) Life is harsh for them, especially the women. And the cruel practice of infibulation is too gruesome to even think about. Unfortunately it is supported, nay, 'protected' as a cultural practice, even by some of the women there.
There are some nice bits in her story too. The beautiful desert sun. Sleeping under the stars. Being truly connected with nature and the animal kingdom. Her mother's strength of character and sense of humour. How simple and stress-free their life was, except when there is a drought. Taking pleasure in the simplest things, like occasionally eating plain rice with milk, as a treat. I learned a thing or two about their 'must do' attitude, where nobody ever comes up with excuses for not doing their part. For example, if you're supposed to go look for water, you won't come home without it, as there's no point in coming home with excuses only to see your family and livestock die from dehydration. Even without thinking about it, they take their responsibilities very seriously for their daily survival in such harsh environment, and yet they're happy.
Btw, you might wanna know what happens to the infibulated girls on their wedding night... aiyah, go read the book la. All I can say is... sick b@st@rds *pardon my french*.