Very unfortunately, suicide exists in every society. In individualized cases, it can be written off as stemming from individual problems, but what of the suicide of entire demographics? Mounting suicides in any community prompt the question of whether some trends in social forces are at work. A recent New York Times exposé by Alissa Rubin describes widespread suicide amongst women in Herat Province, in Western Afghanistan. The article reports that more and more women are trying to commit suicide with cooking oil and matches, widely available resources for even very poor women. The article, difficult to read at times, shows that social problems in Afghanistan have shaken some women to their core and made them feel like there is no way out.
One featured woman, Farzana, a bright woman who endured years of abuse by her husband, turned to burning herself. Farzana survived and Rubin had this to say about her experience: “After 57 days in the hospital and multiple skin grafts, she is home with her mother and torn between family traditions and an inchoate sense that a new way of thinking is needed.”
What is the new thinking? Where does it lie? How is it brought about? This article, while informing readers of a very grave issue, doesn’t explicitly imply a light at the end of the tunnel. Where can we look to help these women? Change, of course, is not easy to come by, but it is always possible. Increased access to education for these women will not only help them alleviate themselves from poverty, but it will also help them to get married at later ages and also to understand that there are easier ways out than dousing yourself in cooking oil. It is impossible to understand how difficult many of these women’s lives are, but it is possible to inform ourselves about the problem and support the resources that will help these women to rise above these abject conditions.