In 1999, the German Africa Award was awarded to the UN Special Envoy for human rights, Waris Dirie. She was thus the second woman to receive the German Africa Award. Waris Dirie was honoured for her outstanding commitment to education and prevention of female genital circumcision, a still widespread issue that she also addressed in her well-known novel Desert Flower. With Desert Flower she has succeeded in stirring up the world public and was able to convey to many people what female genital circumcision means and that in her eyes, it is mutilation.
In her book she was able not only to describe this violation of human rights and dignity, but also to explain it. Thereby, she pointed out the human background, her mother’s motives, her fears, ignorance and the strict framework of the tradition. With her commitment as UN Special Envoy and her novel Desert Flower, she has crucially contributed to the empowerment of women and their rights and is still active both in this field and as a writer.
The award was presented by Heidemarie Wiekzorek-Zeul, Federal Minister for Economic Development and Cooperation.