#7 Life in Afghanistan :: ObedaPosted: October 7, 2013
I just need to take a moment before we get into today’s post to say a few things.
Firstly… WOW! I had no idea so many of you would read along, and I go between being overwhelmed with gratitude and encouragement to being scared witless that so many are reading my words. Many tears have been shed people!
Secondly… I am SO SO SO excited to be sharing with you some amazing guest writers, which have now confirmed they will write here for you all.
Thirdly… I also have a very special compilation post coming up this week, I’m finding it SO hard to keep it a surprise, but keep following along because you will NOT want to miss it!
Fourthly… I have been making a plan for the series (because I decided on it last minute and didn’t make a plan before hand). Near the end I am going to have a post dedicated to addressing YOUR questions. So if you have any related to the posts during the next few weeks, or Afghanistan in general please leave them in the comments or email me. The post won’t work without questions, so ask away!
Fifthly… I’m going to TRY to keep my posts shorter, but some stories just require a bit of length.
Ok, now that’s been said… let’s get started.
I was on one of my normal project visits, visiting groups of women who we hope to empower to develop their own lives and their communities. I was in a room of about 14 women, sat around the edges of the room on long, thin floor cushions, leaning with their backs against the wall. For each one I stood up and greeted them with three kisses. My local facilitator sat next to me, she understands the culture and language of these women and so she connects on a deeper level. After waiting for everyone to trickle in slowly from their various households my facilitator turned to me and said quietly “Obeda* is not here, I don’t know why.” I nodded and wondered what had happened. I asked the group “Where is Obeda?”
“Obeda died last week. She was very upset with her life, she was not given permission to do anything, coming to this group was the only time she could leave her house. Her husband would be very angry at her, and if she did something wrong he would hit her. Her life was very difficult, and she was sad. One day Zarmina* and I heard her scream, it was the daytime and I knew her husband was at work. I ran to her compound and when I went through the door I could smell the diesel, I saw fire on her body, then Zarmina came into the compound too. We fetched water and put it on Obeda but her burns were very bad. We took her to the hospital, the doctor said she was very ill. The next day she died.”
The story shocked me, but I knew this wasn’t a one-off story. After offering my condolences to the group and talking a little about the situation we continued the meeting. I hoped and prayed that something these meetings held would lower the numbers of women like Obeda.
I had never met Obeda, but my colleagues had, I asked about her. They told me she was a young women, late 20’s. that she was always eager to learn, and that the group was where she found her identity and breathing space from a difficult situation.
Stories like that of Obeda are far too common in Afghanistan, the issues she faced in life, and the way she chose self-immolation to end it. This is one of the reasons I do the work I do, to help women realize their rights, to help them be able to discuss issues of domestic violence, forced marriages, lack of education, to teach them how to cope with emotional stresses, to defuse conflicts in the household, to try to break the cycle of some of the negative things, and to reenforce and encourage the many positive aspects.
*Names changed to protect identities
This is part of the 31 Day series
Self Immolation is the act of setting oneself on fire, normally with the purpose of ending one’s life. As with all suicidal means, it is also used as a way of escaping their current life, or as a cry for help. Self Immolation is a common issue among women in this country. Across the country cases seem to be lessening, over the past few years, as women’s rights increase and more freedoms are given.
Women who survive and are treated in the various burns units across the country often tell tales of how they were unhappy with their standard of living. Forced marriages, domestic violence, abuse from in-laws, being forced to stay inside the home, lack of access to education, extreme poverty, all these are given (often combined) as reasons for the suicide attempt.