5 Questions for Mishal Husain, presenter


Mishal Husain joined BBC Radio 4’s flagship morning news programme ‘Today’ in October 2013.

She has previously presented Sunday’s BBC News at Ten and was the main host of Impact – the flagship 90-minute daily programme on BBC World News.

Mishal was the BBC’s first Washington-based presenter and has also presented a range of BBC programmes including Newsnight and Breakfast.

In 2012, Mishal was one of the key faces of the BBC’s Olympics coverage.

She also has extensive experience reporting live for BBC News on location around the world, including from Pakistan after the death of Osama Bin Laden and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

In October 2013 Mishal interviewed Malala Yusufzai exclusively for BBC News, and returned to Pakistan to retrace Malala’s campaign for girls’ education in the Swat valley

1: What did you enjoy most about narrating Her Story?

The series is a great combination of well-known women and intriguing unknown women doing striking things in and for their communities.

I think it is that juxtaposition that is very compelling – you might know of Michele Bachelet but you might not know she brought in a gender balanced Cabinet in 2006 – and you are unlikely to have heard of Balkissa Chaibou, only 19 and fighting child marriage in Niger.

I would have loved to be the interviewer in this series and meet these extraordinary and diverse women, each with their passions and convictions. But I was happy to become involved in the series at a later date, to come to know these stories, and to see both the difficulties and the hope in the change that these women of all ages are a part of.

2: Which woman did you find the most inspiring?

I was very struck by how open Christine Lagarde is about the personal sacrifices she had made in the time she spent away from her children while she was building her career.  That kind of honesty is rare from women who have risen to the top, but I think it really helps younger women to know that these women aren’t superhuman, that they have had their trials and tribulations along the way.

3. Did you gain any new insights from the series, if so, what?

There were several aspects of the series that were new to me, especially the programme on religion where we see Buddhist and Orthodox Jewish women’s struggle for equality. At a time when the headlines have been so dominated by stories about extremist Islam, it’s a reminder that no religion has a monopoly on misogyny and gender-based discrimination.

4. What was the most difficult story you’ve had to cover during your career?

It was the Peshawar school massacre in December 2014. I had arrived in Pakistan the morning after the attack, which claimed more than 130 lives, and reached Peshawar with no idea of what we would be able to see and tell of what happened in the school. As it happened, within an hour of arriving at the gates of the school, I was allowed in with my cameraman and we filmed the first pictures of the aftermath. The ransacked, blood stained rooms were terrible to behold, and I struggled to find the words to describe the unspeakable.

5. Who has been the best female interviewee you’ve worked with?

I have to say Malala Yousafzai (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23241937). I travelled to her old school and home in the Swat valley in Pakistan, met her friends, and then interviewed her at home in Birmingham in the UK.

We recorded for about four hours and there was so much we could have used. She is wise beyond her years, strong, responsible, thoughtful and thought-provoking. But she also has a great laugh and smile and will disarm you entirely with some rather good card tricks.