Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Afghan Wives, Self-Immolation

For many Afghan women, circumstance can lead to desperation. Forced marriages (for girls as young as 12), extreme poverty, family shame. Mental illness sometimes complicates the situation. New York Times reporter Alissa J. Rubin and photographer Lynsey Addario report on these women and their devastating solution: self-immolation. Setting oneself on fire is a common form of suicide in this part of Afghanistan.

Family members of the survivors are equally devastated. The mother of a teenage wife prays that her daughter does not die with her burns: “That would leave a scar of a thousand years on my heart.”

In October alone, seventy-five women arrived at the Herat Burn Hospital. According to Rubin:

It is shameful here to admit to troubles at home, and mental illness often goes undiagnosed or untreated. Ms. Zada, the hospital staff said, probably suffered from depression. The choices for Afghan women are extraordinarily restricted: Their family is their fate. There is little chance for education, little choice about whom a woman marries, no choice at all about her role in her own house. Her primary job is to serve her husband’s family. Outside that world, she is an outcast.

The Times sheds light on this disturbing trend. How might these Afghan women find options to setting themselves on fire to escape the entrapment of their daily lives?

Filed under: afghanistan, global justice, human rights, women, , , , , , , , , , ,

Looking for Work, Weary of Terror

William, a young migrant worker from Honduras, relates the nightmare of being held hostage in Mexico. His story is only one of many; last week, seventy-two migrant workers were killed in Mexico as they sought work.

Kidnappers will often blackmail the families of these migrant workers for ransom; some families have sold what little they own for their loved ones’ lives. “The journey can make poor farmers even poorer,” reports Jason Beaubien for NPR’s Morning Edition.

I’m reminded of an excellent feature film I saw a couple years ago called Sin Nombre, in which a young Latin woman hitches her way from Latin America to the U.S. on a dangerous, thieve-ridden freight train. What may seem like a noble pursuit–setting off in search of money to send back to your family–is riddled with violence, police and thieves, and extreme natural conditions. The plight of these workers is often an overlooked aspect in the long debate over illegal immigration.

Filed under: global justice, immigration, labor, , , , , , , , ,

Gay Couple in Malawi Pardoned

Heartening news from eastern Africa: the president of Malawi has pardoned the gay couple who were sentenced to 14 years of hard labor.

The BBC reports that President Bingu Wu Mutharika announced the pardon during a visit by UN head Ban ki-Moon. Mutharika seemed to enact the pardon with a sense of duty and under international pressure, still hewing to his country’s discriminatory culture:

“These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws,” he said after meeting Mr Ban.

“However, as the head of state I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions.”

Whether a political move or out of humanitarian largesse, the release of Monjeza and Chimbalanga is welcome news. Perhaps the win for human rights in Malawi will affect the virulently homophobic culture in other African nations.

On a related note, Current television broadcast a fantastic documentary about the anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda called Missionaries of Hate. A thorough, well-researched piece of investigative journalism that I highly recommend.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Filed under: africa, gay rights, global justice, world, , , , , , , , , , ,

Women’s Rights, Rape Awareness, and A Request for Michelle Obama

It may be common knowledge that rape is a tool of war: creating fear among citizens, degrading and demoralizing women (and their loved ones).

How do we fight this shameful injustice? Shed light on the ways rape continues in so many nations unpunished and ignored? Bring awareness to women’s inequality outside the U.S.?

During the recent “Women in the World” conference, Ghanaian activist Leymah Gbowee made a simple proposition to First Lady Michelle Obama: call together the first ladies of 10 African nations to discuss women’s rights.

At the First Lady’s invitation, they would “come running.”

Filed under: africa, global justice, women, , , , , ,

Celebrating Women in Uganda

Photos: Esther Havens

Do you take drinking water for granted?

There’s some interesting charitable work in Uganda organized by a non-profit called “Charity: Water” that I just learned about. I caught one of their PSA’s on the Internet the other day, and what interested me was the way it imagined a scenario in which Westerners had to obtain potable water like millions in developing nations: with a yellow water jug, carried across city blocks, traffic, miles–each and every day.

The PSA shows Western families and businesspeople dragging the ubiquitious yellow jugs that you see everywhere in Uganda and Rwanda through the streets of a city like New York. Equally shocking is the dirty water poured into a clean glass at the table of one of these privileged families.

1.1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water.

Charity: Water’s blog captures much of their daily work, now in Haiti, but one of my favorite posts celebrates the women in northern Uganda who are managing their own water well (over there, it’s called a “bore hole”). I love the way that these photos by the photographer Esther Havens captures the joy and power of these women.

Especially appropriate given it’s International Women’s Month.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Learn more about how you can help communities like these here.

Filed under: global justice, water, , , , , ,

Writing

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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