In 1997, exactly twenty years ago, for the first time in my life I found the courage to talk about the cruel crime that happened to me as a a little girl.
Journalist Laura Ziv from Marie Claire magazine asked me to do an interview with her in New York City about my career as a supermodel.
How I had managed as a poor girl to become the face of glamourous magazine covers like VOGUE and international brand ambassador for perfumes like Allure by CHANEL.
Laura Ziv asked me to tell Marie Claire readers my "African Cinderella" story.
No matter where a person comes from and no matter how many obstacles one has to overcome: Everyone can make it.
During the interview I decided to change the topic.
On that day my life changed forever.
I knew for a long time that one day I would talk about the darkest moment of my life.
The day my genitals were brutally mutilated and sewed together by an ugly old woman in the Somali desert, a so called cutter, a torture that had lifelong consequences.
Afterwards my mother explained that it had to happen in the name of Allah and the tradition of our people and all girls have to undergo it at some point. And many of those girls who suffered FGM did not survive.
I knew from that day on I had to talk about it and make that crime and my own painful story public to save millions of other girls.
Marie Claire published the interview. I was invited to talk about my personal tragedy on talk shows, did hundreds of interviews, spoke at international conferences, and was appointed as UN special ambassador in the fight against FGM by the end of 1997.
Female genital mutilation had a face, a tragic story and a name now. My name.
It had cost me a lot of strength and I suffered a lot of pain to speak about my nightmare and my most intimate feelings for so many years in public. I often cried during those years, had sleepless nights and was tormented with doubts.
I was no longer just the supermodel with the beautiful exotic face, the flawless body promoting a luxury campaign for Cartier, but the victim of a brutal torture.
Yes, I was full of doubts and fear, but I had a vision that made me strong and became my life mission.
No girl or woman on our planet should ever become a victim of FGM.
That's why I started fighting in 1997, I am still fighting today and will fight for my mission tomorrow.
This fight is far from over and many more efforts have to be made by politicians and the UN to stop FGM! BUT I WILL NOT GIVE UP!
Please support my mission and the important work of the Desert Flower Foundation now for Christmas and New Year’s- to come one step closer to end FGM and injustice towards so many girls and women.
LOVE AND PEACE