25 November 2013

A STROLL WITH CHRISTINA LAMB (For International Day For the Elimination Of Violence Against Women)

“Break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act” ~Ban Ki-moon

The world watched with horror as the ambulance carrying the 23-year-old female medical student—who was gang raped in a private bus in Delhi—drove to the hospital in Singapore where she later died, thirteen days after she was raped—and beaten with a metal rod—by 6 men and thrown off the moving bus with her male friend; who was also beaten during the assault. This incidence sparked a lot of protests in India and drew condemnation from the international community. But  what has changed?

Well, not much. Women are still being raped daily—and it’s not just in India, all over the world—8-year-old girls are still trafficked and made to work in red light districts; old women are still being targeted during community clashes and wars; the violence goes on. That is why today is declared an ‘orange day’ by the secretary-general’s UNiTE to end violence against women campaign. The aim of this is to draw attention to violence done against women, and to unite the world in fighting against it.

Christina, my guest, is a multi award-winning journalist, author, mom, and Officer of the order of the British Empire. She’s currently foreign correspondent for the Sunday times and is an expert in regions like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Israel. Among the many books she has authored, she recently co-authored ‘I AM MALALA’ with Malala Yousafzai, in which they both inspired other girls and women around the world to stand up for what they believe in at all cost, even if they have to risk being shot in the head.

We talked about women, violence, Malala, and how we can end violence against women globally. Here’s my stroll with Christina:

Ebenezar: It feels great having this stroll with you Ms. Christina

Christina: The pleasure is mine!

(Image Credit: gozonews)
Ebenezar: International Day for the Elimination of violence against women was instituted over a decade ago, and considering the recent resurgence of rape attacks, girl-child marriages, and other forms of violence, the question is have we really achieved anything?

Christina: Well, when you put it like that it’s very easy to be depressed. The Arab Spring in which women were very active in protests particularly in Egypt seems to have resulted perversely in a deterioration of women’s situation and a worrying rise in sexual harassment and abuse. Similarly in Afghanistan though the situation of urban educated women has improved and far more girls are going to school, there has also been a large rise in girl-child marriages and many threats and killings of women in public office. Then there’s Saudi Arabia where women are not even allowed to drive?

Ebenezar: Yeah, I mean that’s something.

Christina: We still don’t seem to be making progress on tackling domestic violence and of course poverty is disproportionately borne by women as it usually seems to be the mother who goes without to feed or educate their children

On the plus side, there is now far more awareness of women’s situation which conversely may make figures look worse.

Ebenezar: Some people have suggested educating girls, others have said teaching boys--who will eventually become men--to treat ladies right, is the way out. In your own opinion what do you think can be done to eliminate violence against women?

Christina: I think both things are necessary.It’s no good making women more aware of rights if you don’t change the men’s mindset. This was a big mistake in Afghanistan after the Taliban regime was ousted and there was a lot of focus on teaching women their rights. I remember going to see a girls’ football team and they had to play at 4am in secret because if the men see them they’ll call them prostitutes.

Christina receiving her OBE from her majesty, the Queen
(Image Credit: @ChristinaLamb)
Ebenezar: Wow, that’s just appalling. Another ‘silent’ form of violence against women we see in the developed world today is workplace discrimination. Employers say; women are not supposed to be given top positions because it will affect their duties as moms in their homes. Now, as a mom and also a woman that is at the front line of her career, is this true?

Christina: Of course that’s not true. As every mother knows, we are skilled multi-taskers and no child wants to be brought up by a mother who feels frustrated and unfulfilled. It should be a matter of choice of the women themselves. Though of course the woman is often the main breadwinner so has no choice but to keep working.

I might add that newspapers in UK are still very male dominated – in 27 years as a correspondent I have never had a female news editor, foreign editor or overall editor of the newspaper. And men have very different ideas to women what should be covered.

I often get asked how I can do my job as a mom, as it’s dangerous and if it isn’t selfish when I have a child. Though I think it’s fair to ask, but it irritates me intensely that my male colleagues who are dads don’t get asked the same questions. 

Sadly sometimes women are our own worst enemy – in the UK the worse attacks have come from female columnists saying how can I do this? One fellow female correspondent who criticised me for exposing myself to danger after having a child then went on to have a son of her own and still travels to Syria etc!

Ebenezar: hahaha…

Christina: (haha) so what I will say is, I don’t take the same risks as I did before I became a mom – I consider much more before acting.

Ebenezar: Ok, that’s very wise. I’m sure many working moms face this challenge every day; how do you manage to balance your career and family life? Considering how demanding your job is.

Christina: I am lucky that my husband works from home, also our son is 14 now so he doesn’t really want his mom interfering! I did miss a lot when he was a baby – 9/11 happened when he was 18 months and I was away for months and months. His first word was ‘Bye’ and he told his nursery “my mummy lives on a plane”.

Ebenezar: awwww… It was not his fault (hahah)

Christina: Yeah it wasn't, these days Skype is a very wonderful thing –I’ll be in the middle of a conflict zone and my son is reading me his history homework! Also although I’m away a lot, when I am at home I work from home and am there all day. And I spend a lot of time writing books not out reporting so then I am around much more.

Ebenezar: You're currently Foreign correspondent at The Sunday Times and you're an expert on the Taliban, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the likes. These regions can be 'scary' considering the level of violence linked with them. So what keeps you excited about reporting from these regions despite the near-death experiences you've had?

Christina: Those places are more than “stories” to me. I've lived there, I’m passionate about them; have lots of friends there, so I care deeply about what happens. My first posting as a foreign correspondent was Peshawar. So Pakistan and Afghanistan were like my first love affair. And both of them are so endlessly fascinating – amazing people and so much still to resolve.
(Image Credit: Christinalamb.net)
Ebenezar: In course of being a foreign correspondent, you've visited so many other regions too. I mean, we can say you've travelled the world; Brazil, Iraq, South Africa, Pakistan, Zanzibar, etc. Which regions are your favourite? And do you have any dream destinations you'd still like to visit?

Christina: I spent four wonderful years in Rio in my 20s as the FT correspondent and adore Brazil—the music, the people, the food, the scenery. Africa has unbeatable big skies and colour. I recently came back from four years in Washington which also gave me a very different take on things. New Zealand is beautiful. Istanbul is one of my favourite cities. My husband is Portuguese so have spent a lot of time there and I particularly like the little whitewashed village of Monsaraz—to relax. I recently went to Iran which was fascinating and I would love to go back. Where else would I like to go? Cuba, Burma…I’m curious about everywhere!

Ebenezar: Let's talk about your early life a bit. From what I gathered, you were initially supposed to study chemistry at the University College, Oxford. But you changed to the arts, do you ever look back at that decision and say, ''I shouldn't have done that''?

Christina: Absolutely not! 

Ebenezar: (hahaha)

Christina: I can’t believe I studied chemistry in the first place! But I went to an all girls school where if you were bright, you did science even if your best subject was English; which makes me cross looking back on it.

Ebenezar: Yeah, I had that same experience in secondary school. took me a while to repair it and trace my true career. Talking about careers, On Malala's twitter debut, I was lucky to be the first person she tweeted at—and yeah, I bragged a lot about it online(hehe)--and her tweet to me was a response to a question I asked about her future. Now you've known Malala right from her blogging days at BBC Urdu. What can you say about how far she has come, and what she can still achieve?

Christina: Well Malala is amazing. I only met her in January – I had met her father in Pakistan in 2009 when the Taliban invaded Swat. So I only met her in Birmingham. But from the moment I met her I was enchanted. She is incredibly eloquent, passionate and politically wise for her years but is also funny and caring and down to earth – and fights with her brothers!

Ebenezar: (hahah) That’s interesting.

Christina: She is also very courageous—like Benazir Bhutto who I also knew –and she is determined to use the platform she has been given in order to fight for the right for all children to go to school. She says she wants to enter politics and I’m sure she will be a success. I look forward to following her career and telling people in years to come that I knew her when she was 15.

Christina, Malala, and Ziauddin Yousafzai
Ebenezar: Finally before you go, you've written a lot of great books, but what can you say about the experience you got from writing 'I Am Malala' with the Yousafzai family?

Christina: It was incredibly special. I feel very privileged to have got to know Malala and her family and believe we will be lifelong friends. Her mother is a very strong woman with a great sense of humour. My husband and Malala’s dad get on very well and my son with her brothers so we have all had lots of fun together – theatre trips, playing cricket, going for curries. She has a very loving family and they have been very important in keeping her as the same Malala she was before all this worldwide attention.

Ebenezar: Thank you so much for your time Ms. Christina, it was a pleasure talking with you. I hope to get your autograph on my copy of 'I Am Malala' in the nearest future :)

Christina: Of course! You’re welcome Ebenezar.

For more about Christina(@christinalamb) ; to find out about her books; and to check out her recent projects, visit christinalamb.net

99.9% of the violence done against women is done by men. Men! I really don’t understand what the problem is anymore. Why do you want to hurt another woman if you’d also feel bad when you see a woman linked to you—your mother, your sister, your wife—being hurt by another man? I don’t understand really! Do unto others what you want others to do unto you.

We celebrated ‘International Mens Day’ this month, and we were celebrating the virtues of manhood and looking at how vital men are to the existence of our specie on this planet. Well, women are equally important if you don’t know. If you rape and kill all of them, what happens to us? We are not animals. Please. Let us behave like the higher mammals we are. Stop the violence against women and girls, it’s destroying our world.

Shout out to all those organizations and platforms doing their best to fight against women abuse; VERSE UP!, Girl Rising, Malala Fund, The CNN Freedom project, VAWnet, Girl Up… just to name a few. We’d win this fight really soon. Till my next stroll on December 1st, World AIDS Day; when I’d be strolling with Dr. Lizzy Attree—the Caine prize Administrator and author of ‘Blood on the page’ (A compilation of interviews with the maiden writers to write about AIDS); be good, act now and stop the violence against women, #Orangeurworld. Jesus Loves You.

Ebenezar Wikina (@EbenezarWikina)
All Rights Reserved



  1. Wow, I enjoyed reading this. Very inspiring

  2. We must work together to end all evil acts against woman, they have earned their respect!

  3. Giving me the chills!
    Inspiring and sad at the same time, because we still need to make people aware of violence, which is just crazy.
    Thanks for sharing this Ebenezar! And Thank You Christina for "acting"!