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, , , , , , , , , , ,

Obama and McCain on fighting global poverty

You’ve heard–and like me, probably appalled–by the statistics like this: one billion people survive on less than a dollar a day. When I was travelling in Ghana and Togo this summer, I was amazed at the absence of the most basic necessities: clean drinking water, functional roads, even availability of toilet paper.

I’ve been listening and learning about the candidates’ policies on foreign policy, and so often it focuses solely on economic sanctions, the Middle East, and Russia. These issues deserve their attention and my own understanding of their positions. But how often do we learn about Obama and McCain’s policy on fighting the incredible poverty that plagues the world’s poorest nations?

This is the method my friend JT and his villagers used to obtain drinking water in Togo. Fortunately, for him and me, the U.S. government--through the Peace Corps--provided a simple water filter in which we added two drops of bleach (yes, bleach) to the river water we drank. His villagers had become immune to the bacteria in the water. In fact, several folks in Ghana and Togo told me they had had malaria and spoke of it like a common cold.

This is the method my friend JT and his villagers used to obtain drinking water in Togo. Fortunately, for us, the U.S. government--through the Peace Corps--provided a simple water filter in which we added two drops of bleach (yes, bleach) to the river water we drank.

If you care about the health of other nations in addition to our own, take a look at this chart detailing Obama and McCain’s policies on fighting global poverty. It breaks down, in a visual way, the basic differences between the candidate’s positions on helping other nations. As the world’s strongest economy (I know this seems like an oxymoron), we have the responsibility to help other nations.

Obama cites statistics like the cost to get all children into elementary school: one billion dollars. He backs this up with a commitment: “I will invest at least $2 billion in a Global Education Fund.” McCain, however, evades a concrete contribution. He sets down a vague policy (or non-existent policy) that says: “This is why we all should agree that a quality education is the right of every child.”

I don’t want to become didactic or to proselytize. Yet it seems so easy for us as Americans–yes, real Americans–to take on the challenge of eradicating these horrible sanitary, educational, and health conditions. I’m not shy to echo Senator Obama and say it’s good to spread the wealth around.

Filed under: africa, global justice, politics, , , , , , , , ,

Publications

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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