Khadija Gbla is a human rights activist and an entrepreneur. She uses her cross-cultural understanding to inform communities of the life-long trauma caused by female genital mutilation, as well as advocating for domestic violence victims.
Photography by Hannah Scott Stevenson.
What does the notion nurture mean to you?
“It’s about activism, it’s about mentoring – it’s about building up yourself and those around you. It’s about building up ideas and communities and cultures and families. It’s sometimes not treated as a strength though, which breaks my heart. Whatever it is you do in your life, we all actually nurture in one way or another. And we should be proud of it. I think we should reclaim that word ‘nurture’.”
You’ve been very honest and open in your story-telling, do you think that inspires others to be open with their stories?
“I do definitely hope that in sharing my story that I inspire others to open up. There is power in sharing personal stories, as it validates our own stories and experiences and tells others that they’re not alone in theirs. I always look for opportunities to share my story so that other women needn’t feel alone like I have in the past. I have beautiful brown girls come up to me and say ‘it was so good to see myself represented’ – and that in itself is so powerful.”
Do you feel like you have created a community yourself?
“In my work with FGM I have created a world for girls and women whose lives are changing, some of which I may never meet. I’m that voice that is advocating on their behalf, to make sure they get medical treatment, that they get culturally appropriate care in Australia. Working with families and urging them to protect their little girls – that will flow on generation to generation. I won’t ever even live long enough to see the ripple effect of some of my work”
“That is the beauty of it: when one woman speaks up, when one of us says no more, that I am going to create that change. You do it for the sisterhood, for women you will never meet, women who come from various races, cultures and religions. It unites us in this movement of saying that we matter, that we are here and that we are going nowhere.”
How does your work impact your relationship with your son?
“As a feminist, modern woman he gets to see me have a life outside of him, which allows him to see that I’m actually a whole person outside of being his mother. But more than that he sees me going after my dreams and having a vision.”
Has becoming a mother made you slightly alter the goals you’re working towards?
“No, I think it has amplified the ones I’ve already had! I think it has made me more sensitive though. I think once you become a mother you start to become extra sensitive about children – they’re precious, they’re vulnerable, they have no voice and they need to be protected – it just pulls at your heartstrings.”
What are you nurturing right now?
“I’m nurturing myself. I think that in our modern world, we women spend so much time nurturing everything else that we seem to forget that we are important. So I’m nurturing myself by watching a movie, putting on a good song and dancing around the room, a good face mask, or even just lying there doing nothing, with no distractions. Just nourishing myself and allowing space and time for ideas to grow.”