Harriet Khataba is a profound example of how women of any upbringing and creed may find success in all they choose to achieve. Harriet is currently the owner and chief operator of the “Her Story Matters” (HSM) and www.HerStoryMatters.com.
‘Her Story Matters’ is an organisation founded by Harriet, to spotlight and support women from across the globe in an effort to provide awareness and support for women to tell their stories and to emerge as a stronger and more successful individual. This effort would not be possible without the experiences provided to her throughout her life and career.
Harriet heralds from East Africa, where she was born and raised in Kenya. As a child, she recognised the hardships of an alternative culture from western influences. Harriet was raised in a large family of six children with separated parents. Her experience guided her into a life navigated by a need to raise the awareness of youth and women in all cultures.
Her passion is to aid cultures, to influence understanding and to advance the awareness of misconceptions that lead to suffering through inequality of women in third world communities and in the western culture. Today, driven to make a difference, Harriet Khataba is leading a cause to bring communities together across the globe and at home. We have invited Harriet to share her story and to confirm once more that “her story matters”.
You usually listen to other women’s stories – how about your story?
I suppose when you are always the one listening to other stories there is very little room to tell yours. I have on occasion given bits from my stories where appropriate to the conversation but not what I am laying bare on this occasion.
Our stories start being written by others and then at a stage of our life we decide to take the pen and write it with our hand – when did you start to write your own?
I had what others considered a wonderful life and a great job in something that someone else thought I was good at, spending time with people who others thought were the it crowd – on the out.side my life was perfect but on the inside it wasn’t. I went through a rough patch where I considered suicide. It didn’t make sense to me because I had everything I wanted but was empty inside.
I lived in such great darkness that I was drowning to the point where suicide was the only way out, it seemed to me. I contemplated on the ways to do it, and the pain of my family, especially my mother finding out, which broke me. I was in a dark place until I had a thought, a small thought. How about starting a women’s organisation? I had no clue how to do it but I was determined to find out and whilst I started my research and the areas that interested me, I realised that slowly I was starting to write my own life and my destiny.
I believe people come into our lives for various reasons and nothing is ever by chance. I have many people coming into my life that I would love to stay but I guess time will tell, most importantly i have a spiritual parents who have been great – I call them my voice of reason.
I started seeing the possibility of seeing the next day, having renewed hope and the courage to take control. I changed my life, my job, and friends within that transition. During that small time-frame, I was empowered to make my own decisions based on me and not what others thought.
What is the most important chapter in the story of your life?
When I made the choice to dedicate my life to God and began to know and understand who I am, my identity, my potential, my destiny, and the journey with Her Story Matters organisation. When I focused on helping others, in reality I was helping myself to over.come my own problems and getting to where I am today, my issues now don’t seem to be that bad.
Which chapter gave you the best lesson?
A few years ago I filmed a series with young people doing extraordinary things in their life. After filming, I had difficulty with the editing and one thing led to another, and I shelved them. Recently I took them out to be edited and will have an opportunity to have them aired together with an FGM (female genital mutilation) documentary (being one of the issues we highlighted by online campaigns with Her Story Matters).
When I focused on helping others, in reality I was helping myself to over.come my own problems and getting to where I am today, my issues now don’t seem to be that bad.
The best lesson I had from that was to fight for what I believe in, to never give up and to be my biggest motivator and inspiration as no one else will do it for you. It also taught me about having the right people by your side, to give you sound advice and have the guts to tell you off when you mess up.
Which chapter has been the most painful one?
When my father died it was a terrible time for the whole family, and for me it was difficult because I had not seen him in years. Previously I was angry at him for leaving us when I was young. My mother looked after us and did great bringing us up. It was hard seeing her struggle to make things work for us but she did well and we never lacked for anything.
When did you decide to change the page?
When I found out about his bad health, I made the choice to forgive him and let go of what I was holding on to. I chose to remember the good and let go of the bad and the re.lief I felt was amazing. Now I celebrate his life instead.
The best lesson I had from that was to fight for what I believe in, to never give up and to be my biggest motivator and inspiration as no one else will do it for you.
Who are the people that you have decided to include in the chapters of your life – are these people chosen by your will or some.thing else?
I believe people come into our lives for various reasons and nothing is ever by chance. I have many people coming into my life that I would love to stay but I guess time will tell, most importantly I have spiritual parents who have been great – I call them my voice of reason.
My partners on Her Story Matters are definitely people I want in my life. I have very dear friends who have been there for me in their own way and I let some stay in my life because the pressure they bring enriches me and helps me become stronger as well as build my character.
What are the most positive ‘characters’ of your story who have supported you to write optimistic chapters?
My biological mother is most definitely the one character who is largely responsible for who I am. She encouraged me in everything I ever wanted to do and never made me feel like I couldn’t do it. I like to think that most people I have come across have impacted me in a positive way, those who intended otherwise still left a positive in my life I choose to change the negative to the positive. It is the only way to grow.
I want to leave a legacy, to bring 350 million women from around the world in one voice, to fight for those without a voice.
At what stage of your story are you now?
I am at a very good place now with regards to identity, I have made peace with the past and eager to see what is coming my way. I am thrilled and excited with life I can’t wait for the day to begin so I can reach someone inspire someone or be a blessing to someone.
Do you have a big picture about your story – where is your destination?
I have a huge picture… I want to leave a legacy, to bring 350 million women from around the world in one voice, to fight for those without a voice, to come away from the stigma associated with sharing your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Once we understand that we are all imperfect beings, it makes it easier to embrace our story.
I have a platform for women in Her Story Matters, where we encourage each other by sharing stories and being an inspiration to others. In one voice we have an opportunity to overcome limitations placed on us by ourselves and society and open up to possibilities, growth and change. Telling your story is not a weakness – it is courageous and admirable and we want to change the perception associated with any shame in telling one’s story.