Aged 10, Somalia-born Khatra was flown back to her birthplace from her new home in Scunthorpe. She excitedly imagined she was going on holiday. Instead, shortly after arriving, she was taken to a room, pinned down by strangers, and her clitoris and labia removed. Without consent. Without anaesthetic.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a practice born of ingrained cultural beliefs that dictate this torture will make the victim ‘clean’, no longer ‘at risk of promiscuity’ and ‘worthy of marriage’. There were 4,120 new recorded cases in England in 2018/19.
For 41 years, Khatra buried her own experience deep and did everything in her power to escape her brutal childhood.
Giving her 10-year-old self a voice
We meet Khatra fresh from a well-deserved break in sunny LA. From her beautiful home in Hale, she’s pondering the incessant rain in Manchester and her decision to share her story with the world.
“It was discovering the charity One Woman At A Time that made me decide to give that little girl a voice,” says Khatra.
Through education and vocational training, the charity arms women and girls in disadvantaged areas of Africa, India and the UK with the skills and knowledge to create sustainable change – both for themselves and their communities. Khatra is now a patron.
“In the early years,” says Khatra, “I detached myself from that little girl, as if she was someone else. I put her in a little box to protect myself and be able to move on.”
And how spectacularly and bravely she moved on – training as a nurse, then a midwife and, later, a health visitor. She has two degrees. A desire to care for the vulnerable is in her bones and it was truly ignited when, aged 17, she witnessed the “absolute poverty” of East African refugee camps.
A chaotic childhood
As a child, Khatra lived in extreme poverty and against backdrop domestic abuse.
“There were were days when we would go without food, and we had no heating or toys,” recalls Khatra.
Then, shockingly, Khatra reveals that her dad used to tie her and her siblings to the sofa, leaving them unable to move all day.
“My mum gave the seven of us everything she could,” she continues, “but my dad physically abused her and then abused me to hurt her. She was a prisoner producing kids, often without consent. In Somalia, if a woman leaves her husband, he gets custody of the kids. My dad used this to blackmail her, telling her we’d be sent back to Africa.”
As she grew, a strong work ethic kicked in and Khatra began to dream of better things: “I wasn’t the brightest at school – I have dyslexia – but I pushed myself constantly just to escape that world.”
A new life
Khatra’s Hale-based business, KP Aesthetics, is a huge success. She’s married to Brian and has two sons, of whom she talks with a beaming smile and endless pride.
Her mum eventually left her dad and, now 72, lives happily in Scunthorpe.
Female super strength evidently runs in the family. Success and contentment have never been more deserved.
Before we leave, we congratulate on her on being named Inspirational Person of the Year at the Safety in Beauty Diamond Awards 2019. Eyes filling with tears, she recalls the impetus behind her winner’s speech:
“I want to tell little girls, anyone, that you can escape a chaotic life and achieve your dreams. It’s hard work but you can open those doors. And if they don’t open, smash them down until they do!”
Like we said, everyone needs to read this story. Pass it on.
Help change lives at onewomanatatime.co.uk
Words by: Lisa Symonds