Welcome to the Join Up Dots business coaching podcast with Sally Armstrong
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Introducing Sally Armstrong
Sally Armstrong is today’s guest on the Join Up Dots business coaching podcast.
She is a lady who for many years has travelled the world reporting on the issues that affect women and girls across the globe.
Many of them being harrowing treatment, abuse, rape and unneeded suppression.
She is a Human rights activist, journalist and award-winning author and has stepped into zones of conflict all over the world.
From Bosnia and Somalia to the Middle East, Rwanda, Congo and Afghanistan, her eye witness reports have earned her awards including the Gold Award from the National Magazine Awards Foundation, and the Author’s Award from the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Letters.
How The Dots Joined For Sally
Born in 1943 in Montreal, Quebec as a high school physical education teacher, she was involved in the inception of what would later become the magazine Canadian Living.
Whilst in 1988, she became the editor-in-chief of Homemakers magazine, a position she held until 1999.
But she is best known for her work as a journalist, where her principal focus being on on the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan during the extremist rule of the Taliban from 1996 to 2001 and during the country’s present efforts to rebuild itself.
Her bestseller, Veiled Threat (2002), shows her strong belief in the power of individuals to work together to create change.
As she says” There has been no good news, until now. There’s a shift happening – women are moving toward a tipping point. “Everyone – from presidents to pollsters and economists to policy wonks – are predicting that women are the way forward”
So how did she find herself stepping boldly away from Canada, and into areas that if we are to believe the news should be the last places a lady would want to go?
And does she see a time when she will slow down on the global focus, and become more local in her efforts?
Well lets find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots, with the one and only Sally Armstrong.
During the show we discussed such weighty topics with Sally Armstrong such as:
How technology is changing the world due to the ability of sharing news and allowing people to see what possibilities they possess and deserve.
How she often gets asked by people “what happened in your childhood to make you want to do what you do in life?” and can’t quite nail it.
How she feels doing her job is like sitting in the front row of history. And she is aware that accuracy of reporting is essential as a journalist.
How she got told by Hilary Clinton that anytime across the world there are 39 civil wars operating, and 31 of them are old wars that haven’t been resolved.
How Osama Bin Laden rose to power in his country and influenced so many fellow countrymen to follow and support him.
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Audio Transcription From Sally Armstrong Interview
Today’s show is brought to you by podcasters mastery.com, the premier online community teaching you to podcast like a pro. Check us out now. podcasters mastery.com. When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. join up dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK, David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:37]
Yes, hello, everybody and welcome to join up dots Episode 363. And we have got an amazing guest who’s got an amazing story. And I think actually in all the other episodes, we haven’t come close to somebody who’s got a backstory like today’s guest has. She is a lady who for many years has traveled the world reporting on the issues that affect women and girls across
The Globe, many of them being harrowing treatment abuse, rape and unneeded suppression. She’s a human rights activists, journalist and award winning author and has stepped into zones of conflict all over the world from Bosnia and Somalia to the Middle East when the Congo and Afghanistan I witnessed reports of under awards, including the Gold Award from the national magazine awards Foundation, and the offers award from the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian letters as a high school physical education teacher, she was involved in the inception of what would later become the magazine Canadian living. Now whilst in 1998, she became the editor in chief of homemakers magazine position she held until 1999. But she is best known for her work as a journalist where her principal focus being on the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan during the extremist role of the Taliban from 1996 to 2001. And during the country’s present efforts to rebuild itself now best seller veiled threat shows a strong belief in the power of individuals
work together to create change as she says, there’s been no good news until now. There’s a shift happening. Women are moving forward towards a tipping point everyone from presidents to posters, economics to policy wrongs are predicting that women are the way forward. So how did you find yourself stepping boldly away from Canada and into areas that if we have to believe the news should be the last places a lady would want to go? And does she see a time when she has slowed down on the global focus and become more local in our efforts? Well, let’s find out as we bring on to the show, to start join up dots with the one and only Sally Armstrong. How are you Sally?
Sally Armstrong [2:36]
Hello David. I’m very well how are you?
David Ralph [2:36]
I’m always well Sally. I am always well, but because I kind of keep to myself in a in a nice, air conditioned recording studio but you go out and you come out to terrible places. So are you always well wherever you go, or would you rather be where I am sometimes.
Sally Armstrong [2:36]
Well, I love the spin you put on it, David because you’re right. You know I am a journalist. I work in zones of conflict. And my beat has always been to find out what happens to women and girls at these places. So it’s true. I haven’t had a good news story to tell. I broke the story, but the gang raping of women in the Balkans, I was the first journalist to write about the way the Taliban were treating women. But you know, about four years ago, I started to feel like the earth was shifting under the status of women. At first I thought maybe it was it was wishful thinking on my part. I mean, it’s true. I haven’t had a good news story to tell. But you know, David, I did the research, I found out I was right. And I raised to put this into a book. The book is called uprising. A new age is dawning for every mother’s daughter. It’s available on amazon.com little add here, but I was very, very excited about the book because you know, David, how hard everybody has to work to alter the status of women we march and we sign petitions and we read articles and we whisper to our friends have terrible it is people treat the women. But now change is coming and it’s coming. coming fast. It doesn’t mean we’re at the finish line Not at all, not in the UK, not in North America. And not in the in the many of the areas that I write about. But are we ever approaching the finish line? This is good news.
David Ralph [4:12]
So does it excite you but obviously doesn’t excite you? But does it excite you about those possibilities that women will I don’t know how to phrase it but overthrow the man power men are basically being empowered for years and years and years? Is it more exciting but to work hand in hand? Or do you like it to go one way or the other?
Sally Armstrong [4:33]
Absolutely not one way or the other? If there’s any lesson we’ve learned over the last 2000 years, is that the absence of us working together is denying us at meeting our goals. I mean, you know what they say that they the policy won’t should you call them? They say that, that because of the shifting status of women. They say that that intractable files, like poverty, like conflict, even violence are going to today bigger changes than they’ve ever seen before. You know, let’s face it David it’s always about money, isn’t it? So it was the economist, the famous and Millennium both economist Jeffrey Sachs, who said, the status of women, the economy are directly related where one’s flourishing, so was the other ones in the ditch. So was the other. And I mean, you and I could have been saying this maybe for years. But when Jeffrey Sachs said that, it gets traction, and I want to respond to that remark you made. But is it men over women? Are women over men? or Are we together, I had the best story to tell you about that. I was reporting on a spectacular new organization, which I’ll tell you more about later, and called young women rising in Afghanistan. And these kids are doing incredible work. But when I got to meet with them, I was doing a radio documentary on them. What do you know, half of them are young men. And the same thing had happened to me when I was in Cairo doing a story on the web of the Arab Spring, I got to the the organization. And I was completely shocked to see that half of them were young men. And I said to them, what’s with the guys, when we were marching around and 70s and 80s. In North America, we didn’t invite the guys to to march with us. And both in Cairo, Egypt and in Kabul, Afghanistan, I got exactly the same mentor. These young people said to me, we will never get to the finish line unless we walk together such incredibly wise words from young people. So to answer your question, we will never make it until that both the men and the women decide to walk together, then we’ll get to the finish line. But don’t
David Ralph [6:45]
you think that naturally, things are obviously changing at a rate of knots. The technology that we’ve got in our fingertips changes the possibilities that people have on an individual basis, which obviously then has a knock on effect to sort of local and communities and global stuff? Is it quite simply that when you see people like Hillary Clinton running for president, or Barack Obama, black men and getting into the White House, that people across the world because we can now connect and and link ourselves up with technology, think to ourselves, why not us? Would that be a simple way of thinking?
Sally Armstrong [7:23]
I think you’re absolutely right. But I’ll tell you another story on the same line that hooks us together even more powerfully. And that would be the story of malaria USAF site that you remember her 15 years old living in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, when she decided that despite what the Taliban said that she must not go to school, she was going to go to school. Here’s a kid who wanted to learn to read and write and learn to think for herself. So she defied the Taliban she went to school. And what did that cowardly, stupid Taliban? Do? They shot her in the head. Remember that story? I do? Yeah. Well, you know what, just a few years ago David we would never have heard a story. Because in a Swat Valley, I mean, these things happen all over. We know that to be true. It’s not unusual that a girl is abused is depressed, whatever. So in the Swat Valley, they would have said that it’s a girl who cares. And if you and I heard it, we would have whispered behind our hands door friends, we would have said, Well, you know, the way they treat their women is appalling, but it’s nothing we can do about it. Mullah story went into the stratosphere. No matter what she did. She was in the newspaper when they moved her to the UK for her treatment in the newspaper. The day they did the surgery, the national newspaper in Canada printed a one third page diagram of what the surgery was going to do. And and I remember I was in on the west coast of Canada in Victoria. And I had a call from CTV News, one of our national broadcasters. And they said Hurry, Hurry, go to the studio. We need a news hit malaria just get out of the hospital. And five days later, she’s back in the news again, with their little pink backpack slung on her back David, what happened was Malema had become the world’s daughter. Everybody knew Mila. And it was as though we lifted a curtain up and look on a stage that had been missing the girls and said to ourselves, what the heck have we been thinking about? So I agree with you totally. But Barack Obama and indeed about Hillary Clinton, but Malouda story, I think it was a real turning point.
David Ralph [9:28]
And and with her story, obviously, because you were involved in sort of writing about the Taliban? Did it still shock you? Or did you just think whether her or somebody else that was always going to happen?
Sally Armstrong [9:42]
Well, it did shock me, as it would shock you because we’re humans and and people who are humans are shocked by such power and violence. And
David Ralph [9:53]
but you must get known to buy it. If you’re involved in at the time David
Sally Armstrong [9:58]
I do not. I was in Afghanistan on assignment about six weeks ago. And I’m a shock today, although there’s big changes in Afghanistan, which by the way we should talk about, and I’m shocked at every, every site I see of a girl who’s been beaten or a woman who’s been denied. I just don’t get it. I don’t get I don’t know the people who want to do this. Do you know people who want to, to rate women or sideline women or refuse them? It quality wise, I don’t know who these people are. And I’ve been trying to find them for 25 years. I mean, but I’m sure I’ve I’ve had conversations with them. I was the Taliban worst nightmare, by the way. But we are better off in the world. If we work together, the economy improves. Who can argue with that? And being the Taliban’s
David Ralph [10:49]
worst nightmare? Is that not a scary position to put yourself into because you seem a lovely lady. And as I said in the introduction, you’re going into places that really should be the last places a lady would want to go to. So is that not scary? When you think Hang on, I’m really in the midst of this?
Sally Armstrong [11:09]
Well, it is indeed but I’m kind of look on the bright side, I remember the years that the Taliban were in power, which was 1996 until 2001. If you’ll remember that the people who interviewed me here used to call me Latella banister. But I’m I’m six feet tall, and blond and blue eyes. So you can imagine I stick out like a sore thumb. And the Taliban kept saying to me, You have no right to be writing about our women. Who do you think you are? You’re not from here. You’re not in our culture. You’re not in our religion, this is none of your business. And I would say as gently as possible. It is my business. What’s happening to the women in Afghanistan is not cultural. It’s criminal. And until we talked about it, we can’t change it. And indeed, we’re all talking about it now. And it is changing. So the Taliban, you said that they did not exactly roll out a welcome mat for me.
David Ralph [12:06]
No, I can see that. And if we take you back in time, to the young Sally, what did you grow up in Canada, you obviously wherever you grew up was a mile away from what you’re doing now?
Sally Armstrong [12:18]
Well, you’re right. I, I grew up in Montreal did bilingual part of Canada. And I had an idyllic upbringing. A lot of people say to me, you know, whatever happened to you as a kid that propelled you to do this kind of work. But maybe maybe what happened to me was, as a kid was I learned that, that oppression is a bad thing, or that human rights is a good thing. I, I had an idyllic childhood, I have to say, I went to McGill University, I was very athletic. I used to take part in a play and all the varsity teams. But I think what I learned was that if if we are fair, and we use justice, we make a better community. And I think I carried that into my adult life. And then when I became a journalist, I had to do all the things that a young journalist has to do, you know, chasing fire engines and telling stories, but I very quickly moved into the area that I’ve covered ever since as an adult. And I quickly moved into covering the kinds of things I’ve been covering ever since which is the villains of conflict and what happens to women and girls, when when their human rights are denied, when they don’t have access to what they have every right to have access to. And when they’re oppressed. And the evidence is in the studies have been done, the data is there. It is better if we are together. It doesn’t matter whether you’re living on the North Pole, or London, England or Toronto, Canada, or over the middle of the Middle East, we are better together.
David Ralph [13:54]
So So what was the thing in your childhood or whatever? Because it that’s a good question, isn’t it and I can under stand why people ask that because most things in our life, we can tie back to our childhood. But what has made you go down the route that you’re in? Was it just a series of dots that led you down that path? Or is that fundamentally something in you?
Sally Armstrong [14:15]
Well, David, you asked a good question. And to tell you the truth is, I’ve examined it myself, because I am very much caught up in the work that I do. I mean, there are times that I’m sure lots of people wish I would leave it alone step in. I’ve wrecked a few dinner parties in my day. Let’s put it that way. But I think as young people we were raised to consider the other popular social, sociological phrase, we made me growing up in Quebec, I could see how French people were not getting the same justice as English people, perhaps that played on my young mind. But I cannot say I cannot say it’s stuck out for me as an activist at that time. But by the time I was in university, it was sticking out. I didn’t understand why there were rules for the women but no rules for the men. The women had curfews, the men didn’t have curfews, and you couldn’t play on certain teams. We had a lot we wanted to change.
David Ralph [15:19]
And will you always the sort of poster girl for wanting to change even at sort of college and university? Or when I go, oh, it goes? Sadly, she’s gonna get involved in this.
Sally Armstrong [15:30]
Well, you know, perhaps I was I, as I look back, it’s true. I lived in residence as many young women did in university. And you’re right David, I want to changes in the university. I didn’t think it was fair that that we had to do certain things, and the male students didn’t have to do them. So yeah, maybe I was that person.
David Ralph [15:52]
So so for one of the listeners out there, so he was a lady out there, and she’s in a cubicle, I always pose that the people are sitting in there listening to the shows what a should be working. And I suppose that’s what the show is constructed for to inspire them to do things. Would you say about a life of journalism, especially in your specialism? is a good place to go? Or? Is it not as good as it used to be? Is it better? What would be your advice to them?
Sally Armstrong [16:20]
Well, I love my job. I love being a journalist, you know, the wonderful thing about being a journalist is it’s your job to ask. So if you think you don’t know, that’s even better. All you have to do is keep saying, Well, why is it like this? And how do you do it like that? And what is that about? Can you explain it to me? So the position, I settle in very well, but David being a journalist, in the job I do, it’s like sitting in the front row of history. You’re there, when history is being made, and it’s your job to get it right. It’s your job to find out what somebody said or did and and you have to be precise, you have to be so careful not to get it wrong. But especially in my side, I believe I get to meet these women. And you know, in many, many of the stories I do, whether they’re in Afghanistan, or Congo or, or various countries in Africa, I don’t know how I’d ever manage without the women because they’re always saying, you know what you should go to such and such a village because certain searches happening over there will help you to get there. You know, as a journalist, you’re wandering around by yourself, wander might not be exactly the word. But I have depended on the women to help me in many, many cases. And I do love my job. And I think it’s a terrific job. And I think if someone was interested in journalism, they should chase it. But there’s another piece to your question that, that I find fascinating. I think many, many, many people feel they would like to be part of making change. I think many of us listen to the news, or even read my stories. And we think, what role do I play in this? Where do I fit into this too? Is it? Is it have anything to do? Do it me? Or does it have nothing to do with me. And I sometimes think that innocent bystander is an oxymoron. It has everything to do with you. If you see injustice being committed, then you have a choice, you can either take action, or you can look the other way, no one’s going to arrest you for looking the other way. But you know, we look at these things. And we think, well, it’s nothing I can do. I’m not rich, I’m not famous, I’m not powerful. I’m only one person. I mean, I can change the world. But you know what your most powerful tool is your own voice, as I said to a director, few dinner parties along the way, but when you speak up, when you say, politely, whatever, that’s not okay with me. you plant a seed of change to whoever heard you say it, you may not make that change at that moment, or the next day or even the next year, that you planted the seed. How many times if you’ve been at party and you’ve heard people saying David they say, Oh, you know, these these people, let’s say the Afghan they’ve been at this for thousands of years, let them kill each other? Well, it’s not okay with me that we look at something and use those concept words. So I say to people, you have a very, very strong tool in your own voice. And when you use your voice to say, That’s not okay with me, you are really doing something very, very important.
David Ralph [19:31]
So So how do people tap into that? You know, we’ve seen it through history, we’ve seen Gandy stand up against the British Empire, we’ve seen Rosa Parks, we’ve seen the but the girl who got shot in the head, her name escapes me again for a sudden, and yeah, absolutely. What what makes these people who are so normal, just suddenly do something, which is remarkable goes down in history, if you got any ideas.
Sally Armstrong [19:58]
Well, you know, I’ve read about those as, as I’m sure you have. We’re not Gandhi. But remember, Churchill wasn’t Churchill until there was a war to make Churchill Churchill, if you get my drift. Yeah. And sometimes circumstances put you in a situation where you become a Gandhi like person or Rosa Parks, or indeed, Churchill. But I don’t think that’s who we’re talking to. I think we’re talking to people like you and I, and people who are listening to your show, who, who are absorbed with the things they read in the paper or hear on the news. And they think, Oh, my God, that’s terrible. I mean, I wish I could help but I can’t. And my, my message is, yes, you can, because it takes all of us to speak out. It’s not okay. That honor killing is not okay. Gang raping is not okay. And, and yet, we tend to whisper behind our hands, because we’re afraid, you know, stepping on somebody else’s culture or somebody else’s religion. What happens is, and things that are criminal, are called control, things that are, are not religious at all, are suddenly being grabbed by this bogus religious claim. It’s time for us to speak up. I’m not saying start up a fight or, you know, makeup at a bracket louder than you are capable of doing. But if you speak up, if you say, That’s not okay with me, I think you make big change, I think then you become part of the change, then you join the great change makers, Game Changers in that back.
David Ralph [21:40]
Well, why are you know, hopping on with Rosa Parks again, the thing that’s fascinating with her, was, quite simply, it was almost she was in a bad mood. And she created so much. You know, and you could just say, Oh, she was having a bad day, and he wouldn’t take it anymore. It’s fascinating.
Sally Armstrong [21:59]
These two go for it. Listen, David you just raised the most important thing it has. It’s all of this is in my book uprising, by the way, Rosa Parks as you and I knew her was the elderly woman who refused to get off the bus and the Jim Crow days in Alabama, right? Yeah. But what we didn’t know until a book came out two years ago called the dark at the end of the street. Rosa Parks had been working for 25 years as a rape specialist, Rosa Parks had the data to prove that that was the way the way the the riots and someone had been reported on for all of those years, they need to be rewritten. The whole change in in the black America needs to include the fact that women were being used as, as a tool of oppression. So Rosa Parks Actually, this is the best part, isn’t it that we find out that someone who made a bus was in fact, and had been working for 25 years on making change? And she indeed was making change for women?
David Ralph [23:09]
And so do you do you ever see yourself being in a position like that, obviously, you’re putting yourself in the forefront? you’re providing the information to the world? But have you ever been in a situation like that when it’s down to you personally? And it could go either way? Are you very aware that you’re there to do a job and it’s not your agenda in certain regards, you’re you’re better report on it?
Sally Armstrong [23:34]
Well, I have been in situations that are dangerous, I have been to be dead honest with you scared out of my wits, from time to time. But I do like you, I have a job to do. And I keep doing the job. But I think if I felt I needed to bail, I would fail it by good. Usually, by the time you’re in trouble. There’s no way to fail. But I do think I see myself more as a messenger. I’m the one who goes out there and gathers the information. And I write it or broadcast it in such a way that I grab the attention of my readers or my listeners. And they’re the ones who are the game changers. They’re the ones who are writing letters to the United Nations report, writing to somebody to say this has to stop. That’s that’s the role I see for myself as I’m the messenger.
David Ralph [24:27]
But but that’s not a normal position is it did to do your work. I’ve done work all my working life, that’s what work is. And I don’t often get scared out of my wits, then that’s not a good place to be surely.
Sally Armstrong [24:43]
Well, keeps your adrenaline up, doesn’t it? I think it keeps you sharp. And I I love what I do actually. And and I think perhaps people who who who cover conflict are drawn by the adventure that goes with that. I hate to say that because you know sooner say that. And you find yourself in a situation where it served you darn well, right. But I’m, I’m fascinated by what it takes that makes people quarrel with each other. And and what it takes that makes people mistreat each other what what is that? I’m not talking about people who are crazy, or, or, or people who are suffering from some illness that they can’t control themselves. I’m talking about people in the neighborhood. And I’m fascinated by that kind of interactive behavior. But on top of that, I’m very, very taken up with what happens in conflict, why does it get to conflict? And you know, they say that if you involve women and sorting out the conflict, you will have a better result. So someone would say, and I could just hear you thinking,
Oh, sure, sure. Give it to the women, your
you know what it’s about, women need to get those schools open and go get the kids back to school, women need to get them the fields clear to land mines, but they’ve got to get a crop into the ground. It’s not about being a goody two shoes, it’s about getting on with it. Whereas the men historically have felt they’ve gotta get, they’ve got to beat the enemy, they’ve got it have an admission of defeat, women have to get the kids to school, otherwise, you’re going to be underfoot at home, they got to get the crop in, otherwise, you’re gonna have nothing to feed those kids. That’s why together, we’re better. I wonder about baseball. And
David Ralph [26:35]
I only know from my experience, but certainly I’ve managed teams before. And if you go out and buy into what you’re saying totally, if you got a hybrid of men, women, older women younger, it worked perfectly. But when you get just a bunch of women together more often than not, there was an atmosphere, there was always an atmosphere. There’s something going on, somebody said this, somebody said, so why for her and all that kind of stuff. Do you find on the global sense, but doesn’t occur like it does in an office?
Sally Armstrong [27:06]
No, I think you’re absolutely right. And I think I think if we’re going to ever come to the finish line, we have to come to terms with the fact that we operate differently. I mean, men do that, too. When men are together, men have a way of behaving as a group. And women have a way of behaving as a group, I think we’d be daft to suggest that either them should give up their behaviors. But I think what we really ought to be doing is saying, why don’t we sit down at the same table and talk about what does it take to make peace? Let me tell you a story David, this is a story Hillary Clinton told when I was doing the research for my book, she said, there are 39 civil wars going on in the world today. 31 of them are old wars. They keep restarting you and I know that. But she said the reason they keep restarting is because the end will cease fires of exhaustion, rather than ceasefires that deal with what was wrong in the first place. And here’s the kicker David she said the same three things are wrong in every Civil War before they get to the warring part. She said poverty, lack of education, and the oppression of women. nobody talked that way before. But if you whip around the world from your, your grade school geography class, you can easily say Yeah, yep, yep, that’s happening. They’re there. And they’re war, bad economy, oppression of women, we know it to be true. What we need to do is take action by the end. And maybe you’re generally trying to say, well, women gossip and pen don’t. But women talk. And and if we want to call it gossip, okay, but women will talk. And men tend to be more silent. There’s nothing wrong with that. But bring us both to the same table. And together, we can solve everything. We know it. I’m not the one thing that I’m repeating. scads and scads and scads of research.
David Ralph [29:07]
Well, what I want to do, I just want to tell you one of our motivational speeches that we like to bring on the show, because I’m fascinated about you, because there’s something about you, Sally that I don’t quite understand. And it’s really yeah, and I’m one of these guys that will if there is trouble, I will try and keep away from trouble. I will skirt around it. But you’re quite comfortable being in the hubbub as I said earlier. So they said words to Jim Carrey and then we had to talk about him afterwards.
Unknown Speaker [29:34]
My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him. And so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. And when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you
David Ralph [30:01]
Well, you’re obviously doing what you love. But But what your family conservative, or did they have that kind of spontaneous about them to go off and do things and push themselves?
Sally Armstrong [30:13]
I think I came from a combination of that sort of thing, you know, corporate father, a stay at home mother, who ultimately when the corporate father died of a heart attack, she had to then bring the old nursing career back into life and had a quite spectacular career actually, after that. So I think I had lots of examples set for me. But I feel really lucky that I get to do this job. I mean, I i’ve sometimes think I’ve lucked my way into it. I mean, I think I go around to places that are in terrible problem places you and I want to know about. And I get to talk to people who tell me what it’s like to live in their shoes. And speaking of living in their shoes, I very often stay with the people on writing. But there’s there’s often not a hotel available anyway. But I pay some money to family to let me stay in their mud brick house, or whatever shelter they’re staying in. And it gives me such a view of what is going on. So Excuse me, I feel very, very fortunate that I get to do it. And yeah, it’s scary. But even as Jim Carrey was saying you want to be a comedian want to be this and that. There’s also times when a person stands up on the stage and hopes the heck the audience is going to laugh. And there must be a moment of terror. When they think oh my god, nobody’s laughing.
David Ralph [31:42]
You know, unless it’s a really bad
Unknown Speaker [31:43]
Sally Armstrong [31:45]
That’s true. But maybe nobody laughing at your joke feels as bad as being scared. Someone’s going to shoot you. I don’t know.
David Ralph [31:53]
So so we’re all the moments obviously, I don’t want to just skirt around the sort of the pleasant side of your but where are the moments where you’ve gone? Yeah, this this was a step too far. Have you got any stories you can tell us?
Sally Armstrong [32:07]
Um, well, sometimes I, I would say I’m too outspoken. And I invite my own trouble. And I was in Kandahar, in January 2001. And when he saw he was with Kandahar, in Afghanistan, okay center of it, where the Taliban started their movement. And in January 2001, 911, obviously hadn’t happened. And the Taliban were very much in charge. And Kandahar is kind of a spooky place. You know, at four o’clock in the afternoon, the sun is already hidden behind the very pointy mountains that are in the area. And they’re in the middle of a terrible drought. So everything with dusty, it looks sort of like a big, great Hollywood movie setting. It was very, very spooky looking. And I ran into a woman who was actually reporting for the London Sunday Times. She said, how difficult it was to work in this place. And we were kind of complaining the two of us one to the other saying, you know, you’re working in a place where half the people don’t know the truth, and the other half won’t tell the truth. And how are you supposed to get your story, you know, the way colleagues will complain? Anyway, she went on her way went on my way. And about three days later, I found myself in trouble. And had I not been outspoken, I think I might have been able to skirt the trouble. But the the manager of the place I was staying said I had to leave. And I said, Why do I have to leave you know, even no matter how bad things are in a war zone, people need money. If they’re getting 30 bucks a night from you to rent your room, they’re not going to throw you out, unless someone else told them to throw you out. So this guy’s throwing me out. And I started arguing with him. And I started telling him, you know that he was taking orders from somebody else. And this was no way to do business. There wasn’t one side of my head was saying, shut up, Sally, you’re asking for trouble. But the other side of my head, well, it didn’t end run around the back of my brain and came right out of my mouth was me telling him how ridiculous the Taliban were and how much they were hurting the people and so on. Well, guess what I ended up being picked up by the Taliban and having an unexpected stay in their desert compound. And I thought later, when I come down a little, had I handled that better. I might have just sort of slipped out of town and avoided what I saw as a catastrophe at the time. And by the way, when I arrived at the desert compound, and they slammed the last of those awful metal gates that seemed to reverberate with sound for kilometers around. I saw I was in the raw desert at that point. And I looked out and I could see a fire burning, and who’s sitting beside the fire. But the reporter from the London 70 times your name is Esther boxer. And though she’d been picked up three days before, soon after we left each other. Anyway, it was a situation where it turned out all right. And I made a new friend. But I think I could have avoided the situation that I kept my mouth shut.
David Ralph [35:15]
I was convinced you were gonna say bin Laden was seeking bought a five and I thought,
Sally Armstrong [35:21]
well, I have a story of
David Ralph [35:23]
Do we have time homes, we go to time in the world, you go for it.
Sally Armstrong [35:27]
Listen to this. Okay. It was was it the same trip, it might have been the same trip, but it was around the same time. I was interviewing women in Kandahar. Now. These are women who were being subjected to these absolutely cuckoo Taliban rules. Remember, they had to paint their windows black. Remember, they had to wear wet shoes because the Taliban didn’t like send to the tap tap of women’s high heel. They weren’t allowed to work. They weren’t allowed to, to get health care. The rules were absolutely crazy. Anyway, I’m sitting with these women in the in the basement of a best at place that window painted black on the first floor. And they said, you know, there’s this horrible person who’s who’s taken over this country. And he’s ruining our country is ruining our religion. He’s ruining our culture. I said, Oh, really? Was he? What does he do? They said, Come on, we’ll show you where he lives. So we all put on on board because and we trip over to the very edge of Kandahar outside of town, and what is standing there, but this palatial estate, with marble pillars with beautiful green lawns there in the middle of a drop, gorgeous flowers all over the place a two story home, which is unheard of in Kandahar. And I said, Wow, this guy must have a pretty good gig. What does he do? And these women said to me, Well, this is only one of his houses. He has a house like this in every major city in Afghanistan. I said, Really? So what does he do? They said, David, you won’t believe it. They said he doesn’t work in these houses. He works in a cave 30 kilometers north of Kandahar. His name is Osama bin Laden. I’d never heard of them. I wrote it into my story. My editor took it out. didn’t know they were hurting him. Anyway, when 911 happened, I thought, oh my gosh, everyone knows where Osama bin Laden is. The women told me in a cave, 30 kilometers north of Kandahar. So where did the troops go? They went to the north, the Missouri Sharif. They went to Kunduz, they went all over the country. They never went to the cave. And I told that story in a speech. And all of a sudden, I got a phone call from a reporter saying, will you talk to us? Will you talk to us we hear you know, we’re been writing essays. Are you kidding? I’m an ex Jim teacher from Canada. Not a spy. But I I told the story. And the point of my story, by now of course, have some have been loudness long gone. But the point of my story was, even the CIA wasn’t smart enough to ask women, women know everything that’s going on in the village they know who’s sleeping with who was carrying on. Nobody asked the women where Osama bin Laden was.
David Ralph [38:10]
That is a fascinating story isn’t it is a fascinating story. But he he was just he was there. You could literally go in there and find a signpost, a sama this way, and then sort of walk. Right. Well, why do you think then that, obviously, we were talking about Rosa and Gandy and people making a positive difference? How do you think that he come to the fore? Obviously, you know, he had money and all that kind of stuff. But what was it about him? Was it the same kind of characteristics that they had, but they use them for good, and they use them for bad?
Sally Armstrong [38:43]
I think that is the cleverest question that has ever been posed? I think you should you should get PhD students to look at that as a dissertation. Because isn’t that exactly the answer we need to have? Why did Osama bin Laden use his obviously charismatic presence for evil? And Gandhi used his for good? Isn’t this a fascinating story? So I think we need to look at people who work on evil. I mean, look at ISIS. What happened is there they’re not the Taliban, that Osama bin Laden recruited, were basically illiterate 20 something, folks, they had no chances these guys, they send them to these madrasa schools, and their mothers let them go because they were promised a meal. So Osama bin Laden was dealing with very primitive people. ISIS is not primitive. They’re they’re attracting kids from your country, my country all over the world that have education that have opportunity. What makes people use their charismatic power for evil? This is a story. I don’t know the answer to that. Is it something that happened to them when they were kids? But we know look, the look at the children who survived the Holocaust, they didn’t grow up to be monsters, they grew up and make good in their lives. So this is a very important question.
David Ralph [40:09]
Because the thing that fascinates me about this is yes, they are charismatic. But if you are somebody that has been raised the right way, you know, right and wrong. And that’s the bit that always fascinates me how these these codes get going where, at your core, you must know that hang on, this isn’t the right thing to do after a while, once you into it, it becomes normal. And I can see how people get brainwashed. But at the beginning, when he’s standing up saying this is what I want to do or whatever. How does he attract most people that have been raised in a very different way. That’s, that’s how movements are made.
Sally Armstrong [40:45]
I think I get that part of this doesn’t if you switch that over to ISIS and talked about those three girls from the UK doesn’t explain that. But for Osama bin Laden talking to a country that by now has been in civil war for about five to six years. Remember when they got rid of the Soviets? There were seven different factions of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan who were vying for power. And this was really the last violent crucible of the Cold War. So when they got rid of the Soviets, the international community left and they left a vacuum. And these Mujahideen went into a fratricidal bloodbath that destroyed the country absolutely destroyed the country. They they rock, the infrastructure, they wrecked everything, they fixed nothing. And the Taliban emerged victorious. But what they promised the people was order. Now order it the point of the coalition of carpet, your head, and Osama bin Laden promised them riches. None of it happened, of course, thank God. But I think you the Taliban did not deliver on a single thing for the people, they rebuild the bridge, they in paper road, they didn’t put a loaf of bread on a table, nothing. But Osama bin Laden promised them a great glorious future, the kinds of things Osama bin Laden and subsequently the Taliban were talking about. You couldn’t find them in the Quran. If you studied the Quran for 400 years, there is no place in the Quran that says a woman can’t go to work. There’s no place that says the girl can’t go to school, that these guys were making it up as they went along. And because 85% of the country’s illiterate, they had no choice but to buy into it. And wonderful Allah wanted to go to school, she wanted to think for herself. She wanted to be able to say, Show me where it’s written in the Quran that I can’t go to school.
David Ralph [42:47]
And when you go taken into that, that compound and you was in with the Taliban. It’s a normality. Once you’re in the middle of it, once again, we see the name the Taliban, and we almost think monsters, but when you actually bear and they’re just moving around doing their own thing. Is it just like any other camp?
Sally Armstrong [43:07]
Well, no, I don’t think so. At least for me, it was not I I will preface my reply by saying I was exceptionally frightened. I was, I was so frightened. I really wondered if, if my heart was going to be so fast, it was going to either stop or bust my ribs on its way out of my body. I was very, very frightened. And having said that, once I did sit down by the fire inside, Esther, Oxford, I did have a few minutes of thinking. I was working for a national magazine news magazine in Canada called Maclean’s at the time. And I thought, would my editors ever love this, if I could just call together some sort of story, but what is happening to me? So I asked the minder, there was one guy who spoke some English. And I asked him a question David he shut me down so fast. I was just I have to be honest, I was too frightened to pursue this story I angle I thought would be suitable. And I’ll tell you one more thing. I don’t talk about this. I’m talking to you. But I don’t know how you managed to do this. And I always say journalists go where they go, because they’re sent there. And they could always come back, I come back to this beautiful country of mine. And so I don’t tell stories about what happens to me. Because it’s not about me, it’s about the women and girls I went there to write about. So just I want to add that and view the fact that you and I are talking a little bit about me. Anyway. So to go back to whether or not you can normalize account that you’re being kept in. I was pretty darn scared. And I pretty much did what I was told I remember the guy locking myself are in the room, I was to stay in through the night. I said, Why don’t he said this is for your own safety. I said, Then give me the key. And then I thought Shut up, Sally, don’t ask for trouble anyway.
But we spoke a little bit,
David Ralph [45:15]
but you’re not talking about yourself? Are you the fact that you’re telling stories? You are history? You’re part of history? When when do you separate yourself from what’s happening around you? Because Surely you’re part of it somehow?
Sally Armstrong [45:29]
Well, I as I said, you, I am part of history, but I’m the messenger. My job is to go out there and find out what happened. And tell people who can’t go to those places, what’s really happening. And I’m, I’m very proud of that kind of work. I work very, very hard at making sure my facts are straight, and accurate. And I I am a storyteller, so I work at getting to know people so that I can share their story with my listener or reader. And, and I’m I like that, I’m pleased that I get to do that. Because I think I can tell people, you know, let me give you an example. The other night, I was giving a speech in a city in Canada. And during the question answer period, somebody said her question was, Why did we ever go to Afghanistan in the first place? Everybody knows that was a failure. And I thought, where did we get that conclusion? You know what David that’s not true. Let me give you the stats. As I said it was there about six weeks ago, there’s almost 9 million children back in school in Afghanistan today, you know that, you know that the life expectancy has gone from 42 years to 62 years, while the international community was there. And maternal mortality and infant mortality have dropped by 70%. These are all things that could never have happened. Without security, you get security in there so the kids can go to school, you can get midwives all over the country to help women with birth. And you alter these kinds of numbers. Now, on top of that, the GDP has increased five fold, and 75% of the population turned out to vote in the last presidential election may knowing they could be shot. This doesn’t sound to me like failure. This sounds to me like progress that I’ve ganas Dan is a primitive place is still struggling with with security, it is still struggling with corruption, it has plenty of problems. But those stats are not something to be argued with. They are solid fact. And I think when we examine the huge cost, and both blood and treasure that all our countries put into Afghanistan, we have to look at those numbers. They’re pretty darn impressive
David Ralph [47:53]
to know when I said earlier, but I can’t quite get you there, there was something I think I have just realized what you’re about it simply yummy. It’s curiosity, isn’t it, I can see whether you’re in this environment or whether you’re watching a documentary on telly, or you’re reading a book, I imagine that you have got focused on it is the curiosity of the information. And it doesn’t matter where you’re getting that from that sort of keeps you alive somehow.
Sally Armstrong [48:22]
Well, I tell you a bit of curiosity that I was involved in recently, when when the girls in Nigeria were kidnapped the school girls, I was assigned that story. And I was to talk about Boko Haram and, and the kidnapping of the girls and what happened to them, etc. So one thing I came across that nobody was talking about, and still nobody is talking about it is that we know this does not have a happy ending so far. And and and that that part could even be tragic. But here’s something that happened. When when Barack Obama in the United States, he was sending surveillance equipment and strategic advisors to Nigeria to find those girls. He made history. Now it’s true. The UK jumped in right away to help and then Russia, Israel, France and Canada, I believe strange bedfellows, I’d say, But what happened is that makes history is no military. No government in history has ever gone anywhere to rescue girls. And this was happening to me, it’s totally alone with the theme of my book uprising, that the Earth has shifted somehow. Now, what Barack Obama’s message had to be girls are important. And education is paramount. And we have to do something about this. So why did the international community go silent? I, I know why. And I’m a little distressed that people are saying, oh, people didn’t try hard enough. What happened was all of course, they found the girls, they had drones for heaven’s sakes, you can find mice with drones. But they couldn’t get them out. You know why? Because it’s the international community’s job to help not to lead. It was the president of nigeria at the time, Goodluck Jonathan, it was his job to lead. But he had no interest in leading he saw those girls as a bargaining chip with Boko Haram. And without him leading the international community had its hands tied. That’s why no more action was taken. And I’m very sorry, nobody reported on that. Well, I reported on that. But I’m only one reporter. Because I think it’s very unfair today to be suggesting we didn’t do enough.
David Ralph [50:44]
Did you feel that your stories are hidden away? Somehow the fact that you had the bin Laden story and you’ve had bad does does that? Does that while you and concern you but somehow the truth isn’t really getting out there at certain points?
Sally Armstrong [51:00]
Well, it certainly gets out where my readers are, I mean, it certainly gets out in Canada. But it’s true, I think it’s one of the prices you pay for being in this wonderful Canada, we are not the first ones to be consulted. And my new book, uprising, and New Age is dawning for every mother’s daughter is now available internationally. And I’m thrilled about that, because I think these are stories that involve all of us and their stories that empower us to be the game changers.
David Ralph [51:34]
Absolutely. And we will have the links to your book, or actually on the show notes. Of course, we’re going to play the words of the Steve Jobs now. And he created literally the whole format of the show join up dots and he said these words back in 2005. And for somebody who’s a wordsmith, like yourself, I’ll be interested to see your your feelings on these. These are Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs [51:54]
Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very Very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [52:28]
Are you on your own path? You off the path as he was saying,
Sally Armstrong [52:32]
Well, I’m on a path, that’s for sure. And I love what Steve Jobs says about that. And and in terms of connecting the dots. And I have a story I would like to share with you. Do we have time for another big story? We have as many stories as you want. Okay. In 1992 I was sent to Sarajevo. Remember the mess going on in the Balkans for most of the 90s
Center sorry, a vote to do a story on the effect of war on children. And I got my story was very difficult to work there. Remember sniper alley and all that stuff. It was it was just a ghastly thing going on at the time. And the day before I was to leave to come home, I started to hear rumors about rape camps. Now you know, as a journalist, you have to realize one of the first casualties of war is the truth. I don’t think people lie to you to trick you. But I do think they upped the ante because they want to be sure you will believe how terribly bad things are. But I heard about the story that the the soldiers were rounding up the wives, the daughters, the mothers, the Sisters of the enemy and putting them in camps and gang raping them. That David This is before dark for before Congo before Rwanda. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. But surely this is a casualty of war. But as the day went on, got more and more and more information that made me realize this was happening. Now I was working for a magazine at the time, I could race this headline story to press in about three months. So I thought I have to get this back to a newspaper. They gathered everything that I put I gathered mobile phone numbers and anecdotes and names of people and situations. And I flew out the next day. We used to call it maybe airlines By the way, even the united nations who were running the airport had a stamp that said maybe airlines because maybe they left maybe they didn’t maybe they were selling the airport. Maybe they weren’t. Anyway, I left on maybe airlines. And I flew back to Canada, I went immediately to a large news agency. And I won’t say which one but I think I would have had the same answer everywhere. And I handed over the story. And I said Give this to one of your reporters. This is an extraordinary story. The guy said, Oh, thanks a lot. And I went back to my office. And I waited for the headline. And I waited and waited seven weeks later, there was a four line blurb in Newsweek magazine that said there gang raping women in the Balkans. And I found the guy that I gave the story to the information to. And I said why didn’t use the story. And he was giggling nervously as soon as he heard my voice because he’d read the same thing in Newsweek. And he said, Oh, you know, Sally, it was a really good story. And I was going to do it. But you know, I put it up on the shelf and sorry, gay, but that it was a very good story. And I really was going to do it. I put it up on the shelf. And, you know, I got busy and you know, I was on deadline. And you know, I forgot to 20,000 women, we can make send them eight years old, some of them 80 years old, and you forgot that Oh, Sally, don’t be so hard on me. That went back to my office and I told my staff, and they said we should do the story. I said it’ll take us three months to get it to our readers. They said Don’t you understand? Nobody else wants this story. I mean, look who was in there? Yea vote. BBC was there. CNN was there. The Guardian was there. The Globe was there. Everybody was there. How come no one did that story. And I felt a little bit like Scarlett O’Hara, I thought, if nobody wants these stories, this was 1992. Remember, I’m going to make them my stories. And I was on a plane Three days later, I went back. I thought this story I focused it on one woman called ever kind of itch. And David I won so many awards for that story that I feel shamed, because I wanted on the back of that really brave woman and many other brave women who told the truth about what happened to them. And those women ended up going to the Hague. And in 1998, they are the ones who made rape, a work run for the very first time that that became my story. I thought if no one will do it. I’m going to do it. Today David, if that happened, coming from a magazine in Canada, I’d be at the back of a long line of journalist chasing that story. I want to tell you one more thing about stuff. That was in 1992. And I read did her story in about 1995 97,
I told that my readers get the my readers wrote to the United Nations, they raised the roof and everything else. But I told them what it become of her. And you know what, then I lost touch with her. Maybe by the year 2000. I’d lost touch with her. About two weeks ago, on my Facebook was that message from her grandchildren. I have now pulled up pictures of those little kids. They were newborns and three year olds and seven year olds and 12 year olds, and they live through that period it. Now I’m going to go back. And I’m going to ask them what it was like. And as adult children, what would they tell the children of Syria today.
David Ralph [58:10]
And I’ll tell you why I probably have said less words in this show than any other episode of join up dots I’ve just been sitting here lapping it all up. And unfortunately, for me, this is the end of the show now. So this is the part. But I’m going to send you on another journey. And it’s not as far but it’s going to go back a long way. This is what we call the Sermon on the mic, when I send you back in time to have a one on one with your younger self. And if you could go back in time and speak to the young Sally, what age would you choose? And what advice would you give? Well, we’re gonna find out, because we’re gonna play the theme tune and when it fades, you’re up. This is the Sermon on the mic. Show.
Sally Armstrong [59:07]
Well David, I would go back, I would go back to a very young girl, a girl with a ponytail, a girl who was athletic, and a girl who had the feeling. She wasn’t supposed to do all the things the boys were doing. A girl who was slightly unsettled by that, but very empowered by parents who said you can do anything. And I think it was an imbalance for me to want to hit a home run in the baseball game, and who wanted to be the fastest swimmer. But who kept getting these messages of Be quiet and stay on the sidelines. I would say that I carry that kind of mixed feeling all the way into you University. But I still had parents saying you can do anything. And I think if I had anything I wanted to share with people was a I know what it feels like, I know what it feels like to have that inner voice thing. Be quiet. Don’t stand on the side. You can’t walk into this cocktail party and make conversation with just anybody that side having it say, and the other side of me saying, Oh, go for it. What can you lose? What can be wrong? And I I struggled with that a bit. And I’d say that the nicest thing about being an older woman is I’ve come to terms with that. I can go forward. If I have something to say I should say it. And I would make sure I was saying it to people who either needed to learn something new, or who already knew what I was talking about. And that together, we would go forward and make Jane
David Ralph [1:01:00]
How can our audience connect with you, Sally?
Sally Armstrong [1:01:03]
I’m on Twitter, Sally Armstrong, nine. I’m on Facebook. I think if you do Facebook slash Sally Armstrong public or maybe slash public, Sally Armstrong, you’ll find me there’s a picture of me. I think they present a bunch of Sally Armstrong but I’m they’re wearing dark glasses, trout in through a village in the Congo. And I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on all those things you can find me I’d love to hear from your listeners
David Ralph [1:01:32]
will have all the links in the show notes. Sally, thank you so much for spending time with us today. joining up those dots and sharing those stories. And please come back again when you have more dots to join up because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures Sally Armstrong Thank you so much. Thank you David thanks for listening to today’s episode of join up dots brought to you exclusively by podcasters mastery.com. The only resource that shows you how to create a show, build an income and still have time for the life that you love. Check out podcasters mastery.com now
David doesn’t want you to become a faded version of the brilliant self you are wants to become so he’s put together an amazing guide for you called the eight pieces of advice that every successful entrepreneur practices, including the two that changed his life. Head over to join up dots.com to download this amazing guide for free and we’ll see you tomorrow on join up dots.