Friday Headlines

the weekly newsletter from Dr Ruth Weeks, Headmistress

Guest Speaker interview: Lara Fatah

24 November 2017

On Friday 10 November, Edgbaston High School held its annual Speech Day in the University of Birmingham’s Great Hall.

On the day we were delighted to be joined by Lara Fatah, Old Girl 2001, who accepted our invitation to attend as the evening’s Guest Speaker and Prize Giver. Before delivering what was a truly fascinating speech, Lara was interviewed by Sixth Form student Pippa.

Where did your interest in Kurdish history stem from?

I’m half Kurdish, so growing up I learned a lot about the culture. Naturally as I got older and I started to study politics at university I developed an interest in the politics and history of the region and began to research more into the subject.

What would you say are the biggest problems that Kurdish people currently face?

You could write a PhD on that! There are many problems over which they have little to no control, so the inability of the Kurdish politicians to remain united internally against an external threat is the biggest challenge.

You consult in a range of topics (economics, trade, politics, culture and Kurdish history) which are you most interested in and why?

I think I probably enjoy the research and the cultural side of our work the most. Sometimes, in the other fields you get to combine it a little bit- particularly when we work with companies on their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. You get the best of both worlds and can incorporate some of the cultural and research skills to the work.

How has being project executive of the 'Kurdistan Memory Programme' benefited you?

I would say it’s a life changing experience for me. I did a lot of research and travelled the length and breadth of the country and I helped to give a voice to those survivors of genocide and that was really moving for me. Little is known about the Anfal genocide and it’s a massive part of recent modern history in that region. The people who survived it are truly inspirational when you hear the horrors that they witnessed and survived.

What advice would you give to girls interested in a career in the media industry?

Similar advice to what I was given. Don’t do a Media Studies degree, because everything you need to know about working in the media you can learn on the job. Go and get a degree in a subject or a language because then it automatically gives you a field you can offer a little bit of expertise in for your writing and it gives you a back up for other career paths as well.

As a woman working in the media do you find there is gender bias and have you ever directly experienced this?

Unfortunately there is gender bias in the media and I have experienced it. It’s not pleasant but the only advice I would give people is to call the offender out on their behaviour, it’s not always easy but if we don’t how will things change for the better?

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

That’s a very good question. I would like to have grown the two businesses a bit further and be at the point where I could be working part time whilst also doing a PhD.

As deputy editor of 'Soma Digest' what is the biggest challenge you've faced and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced was the editor went on maternity leave and left me at the age of 23 in charge of an office of 8 men who didn’t want to be managed by a woman, let alone a 23 year old, and I had to work 7 weeks, 7 days a week, 12-15 hours a day and battle every single one of those hours whilst I was at work. But I overcame it and I did it by being polite and nice to them which they didn’t quite know how to handle but they respected me for it in the end. Now actually they come to me for advice and for jobs/projects so it worked!

What is your most prominent memory from your extensive travels to Iraq?

Some of the work I did with the Memory Programme and some of the stories I heard about the survivors of genocide were quite harrowing but they taught me a lot about the world and about people. Another highlight would be getting to interview the late President of Iraq, Jalal Talalbani, for my undergraduate research he was a true statesman so I’m grateful to have had that opportunity.

What values did you gain at EHS that have aided you through your career path?

To work hard and to be good at what you do but also to have other skills outside area of expertise, ie to be well rounded and to work in a team. If you work hard together you can always achieve more than you would do by yourself.

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