What better way to start a brand new week than with a freshly brewed cup of coffee in the company of an inspiring woman who has helped many find their path to happiness.
Hala Kazim, founder of Journey Through Change, is a fascinating entrepreneur who, it feels, has lived many lives. The Emirati author, philanthropist and motivational speaker has guided women to self-love since 2011 and in that time raised a family of five boys.
The youngest of her 14 siblings, Hala grew up in a loving household where she remembers her parents as charitable people, a quality that she found in herself, “the love to help others.”
She owes a much of her success to Canadian psychotherapist Elaine Kinney who has guided her to start Journey Through Change, a retreat concept that invites women to escape for six days of workshops and hiking, so they can pave their own road to well-being and self-empowerment.
Watch the full interview with Hala Kazim below.
Describe your morning routine.
I’m an early bird, I wake up at 5am, then it’s really boring. I have my boring breakfast which is cereal or yogurt, granola and honey and then off to my daily schedule.
Tell us a little bit about Journey Through Change and what are the main lessons you hope women will take away from their experience?
Journey Through Change is a program I have created, I think I’m the only woman who started this, and even in the West I don’t see something so customised for women. Now the program is to let women, or help women, to take care of themselves and basically just to learn to take care of your physical, mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing and how women should love themselves. For centuries women, all nationalities and not just Arab, don’t know what we deserve and what we’re worth and we put everybody before us. In my school, you put yourself first because when you take care of you and then you can take care of others.
Would you consider working on retreats for men?
They don’t even come. If we really think about, they talk about it “you don’t take us to trips”, they don’t even register. I think, let me just be with women. Women are really committed and go much deeper. For years we always had to prove ourselves, we work hard on ourselves.
How has you upbringing shaped you into the woman you are today?
My father was a trader, my mother was from Bahrain. She was very young when she married my father, she was 15 and he was 70. She was one of the wives, so she was the last one. My mother, I think, had a big influence on us because she was a tough and very strong women, and my father, to what I remember, he was very gentle with me, and helped a lot of poor an a lot of people, and my mother helped a lot of people. That is something I have taken from them, the love to help others. I think it made me a very tough woman I am today, because I had a role model for that.
What is the most valuable lesson you’d like to pass on to your children?
Too many things. I teach them, or I teach myself too, not to judge and be compassionate and be kind, but be firm. Be one. I think being one is very difficult. To be you in Dubai and to be you in London, to be you in India, to be you in front of camera and behind the camera. There are so many things I’ve learnt that I would like to pass on not just to my children, but everyone.
How do you define feminism?
Through the years, it’s been taken wrong. To me, what is feminism? I mean I’m not in a fight with a man, I’m not in a challenge with a man, I’m not here to prove who is wrong, who is right. Men are our companions in life, and I love men. My father and my five sons and my husband, they are men. Why does it have to be ‘I have to fight him to get what I want’? And I’m against equalism, you know they say ‘I’m an equal of man’, no I’m not, my body is different, my brain is different. I like to believe that we are unique, and men are unique.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Myself. Keep going and motivating myself and keep doing what I believe in. Sometimes you get challenges and you want to give up, and you have to recharge yourself. I have a very good support system, which is my husband and my sons, and very good friends too, to push me to what I want to do.
What do you see as your biggest achievement?
I think being a mother of five sons. To see them as good men, successful, that is my biggest achievement with my family. In my work, I think I have reached a lot of women with my message and they accepted, and they have learnt to love themselves.
What do you still want to achieve?
A lot of things. I’m in the middle of the way. Much more of what I am now, I want to reach every woman, not just in the Arab world. Because we are the same. You love, I love, we want a good family, you want to feel beautiful, you want to take care, you want to be loved. I want to reach a lot of women.
Who would you say was your career mentor?
Elaine Kinney she’s Canadian that lives now in New York city, but lived here. She’s going to be 76 this month and she’s the one who helped me change my life and bring Hala back.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
I’ll cry now. I think, keep going because the future is bright.
What would you like to tell yourself 10 years from now?
I always say to myself that I had two lives, totally different. So maybe I will tell myself how much you added to the second life you had. I want to achieve things that I don’t even have an idea about now. What I have now, back then I’d never thought I’d reach, so I want to have the same in 10 years.
Complete this sentence: I’m happy when…
I’m around my sons and when I’m alone.
What do you say ‘no’ to?
I say no to a lot of things. I say no to violence, harshness, racism, aggressiveness, and no to not taking care of yourself. So many no’s, and so many yes.
Describe your personal style in one word.
How do you want the world to remember you?
As a kind woman.