Every Monday we have our Pearls And Heels segment where we feature women and their careers. Our Pearls and Heels lady today is Betty Waitherero. Betty Waitherero is a human rights activist, feminist, content writer, and producer of television documentaries. She manages her own blog in addition to contributing to websites such as The Zambezian, Daily Nation, The Hague Trials as well as being a contributor to The Star Newspapers in Kenya. She has been a local producer for the Kenyan tour of the television reality show, “Destination Truth”. Her own projects include being Co-Executive Producer, “Heritage Discovery” Documentary in collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya.
Betty also has a keen interest in social anthropology, media and psychology and currently voluntarily supports the State Department for strategic Initiatives in Arid Regions (SIDMAR), Office of the President. She works with the Director Mr. Muhktar Ogle as well as the Senior Advisor to the Presidency on peace and conflict, Reverend Dr. Samuel Kobia, in facilitating seminars across Kenya that are targeted at communities in arid regions affected by politically instigated conflict, drought, under-employment and crime. Her role is to empower the participants with the abilities to utilize media platforms to conduct peace building activities, have constructive dialogue and educate on the soft power approaches being used by SIDMAR. The approach she mainly applies is to expand the conversation through facilitated face to face conversations, within safe spaces, allowing for freedom to express radical sentiments and opinions and robustly engage in conflict resolution.
- Describe your typical day?
I am up at 5 am for Fajr prayers, as I am a Muslim. I find that starting off the day this way centers me and it’s very important to me. I make breakfast for my family and then get straight to work. I spend hours researching the different topics my clients’ desire content to be created on. I spend most of my afternoons doing more relaxed reading, mainly articles from newspapers or websites from around the world. By evening I am worn out so I have a quick nap between 4-5pm if I get the chance. On some days I have to visit clients for meetings, so no napping. I write every night, usually starting feeling my juices flow at about 11 pm, and I write till about 2 am. I choose to read books on weekends and maybe meet a few friends to hang out.
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
At some point I remember wanting to be a lawyer, but then realized that the law remains static, and factual, and all one does is applying those facts to make an argument. I wanted to do something that allowed for discovery, so journalism was a great option. But now, I am really keen on anthropology, and specifically wish to focus on studying the culture and language of the Somali People.
- If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I think I would start off in writing and invest more heavily in developing my talent. I started off in television and only started writing articles in 2012, so that seems really sad to me, even though as a producer for TV I did write scripts.
- What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
- Be disciplined. You have to be driven, sometimes that means making yourself look for answers, and doing your research thoroughly.
- Be pedantic. Never stop questioning, and look for the story in the details.
- Be patient but also demanding. Don’t undervalue your work, and certainly don’t let your clients undervalue you.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Kenya in general doesn’t seem to have an appetite for writing, and less so for non-fiction writers. I think we have a real challenge in enhancing our reading and writing culture. Having said that, I think Nairobi really works best for me as a base, seeing as I need to travel for some of my work.
- What motivates you?
Curiosity. The need to have answers really. That’s why I will get up.
- How do you define success?
Success to me is when the questions I have been answered, the explanation is comprehensive, exploratory and is reasonable.
The rest of life seems to have mixed results.
- Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Egyptian feminist, physician and human rights activist Nawal El Sadaawi is my greatest inspiration and motivator. She has had a rich life, full of obstacles to overcome, challenges to meet, successes, failures, marriages, children, standing up to religious and political oppression, writing, treating illnesses, exploring constructs – basically how I want to live my life.
- What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Of course the writing, although I would say that interaction that is created when I facilitate conversations in peace building is quite exciting.
- What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
Self-belief mainly, and being tenacious.
- What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
This isn’t the fastest way to make lots of money, remember that. It may take years to build your reputation and be acknowledged. But remain steadfast.
- What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of career?
I will be surprised if I ever find a satisfied writer, or journalist, I suppose I believe that our line of work is the kind where one only seeks more improvement and to be better. I am never satisfied, I find that the work I have just done, will ultimately be having room for improvement in a few weeks or a few months. Having said that, I do enjoy receiving feedback from happy clients, and I do enjoy seeing the progress I am making in the conversational studies I engage in, seeing people find closure, even after the most robust and even acrimonious discussions.
- What makes you happy?
Seeing people pick up the skills we try to impart in peace building seminars, and use them.
- What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I try to pick up new languages, right now I am learning some basic Somali, and also teaching myself the fundamentals of programming. I like to keep challenging my mind.
- Where you see yourself in around 10 years?
I will still be a writer. Hopefully I would have developed some of the conversational approaches I am working on right now to a more applicable level with larger groups, and of course I would like to go back to university, maybe pick up medicine as a career as well. That would be interesting, I think.
If you would like to interact with Betty find her at @bettywaitherero.