(Time.com) — Fawzia felt like she had no way out. Married off to her cousin at age 16, she had been beaten routinely by her husband and in-laws in their poor rural home in Paktia province for the first three years of her marriage. She complained bitterly to her parents, but no solution seemed imminent. Marriage had become too much for her to bear. Then, after she saw her brother-in-law strike his wife on the head with a gun, Fawzia finally did what she had threatened to do many times before: she doused herself in cooking fuel and struck a match.
The Ministry of Women's Affairs has documented a total of 103 women who set themselves on fire between March 2009 and March 2010. No one knows what the real numbers are, given the difficulty of collecting data in the country. "More than 80% [who try to kill themselves in this way] cannot be saved," says Dr. Ahmed Shah Wazir, who runs the burn unit at Kabul's Istiqlal Hospital, one of only two such specialized wards in Afghanistan.
CNN's Paula Hancocks, on the ground in Afghanistan, describes the sense of eeriness on the streets of Kandahar. "You know there's danger on the street," she says, "You have a sense that there is something out there ... but you don't know where this danger is exactly."
She also talks about the differences between Kabul and Kandahar, the sense of fear on the streets in Kandahar and what it's like for women now in the southern province.
This post also appears in the AM Fix, American Morning's blog
In a place where women have few rights, it seems improbable women would plead for men's advancement too. But, it's happening in Afghanistan.
Not for the reasons you might think, but because many Afghan women realize without the support of fathers, brothers and uncles, they will remain second-class citizens.
For years, the United States has developed and funded special "women's only" programs to help women start their own small businesses.
And while those efforts have been greatly appreciated, some global women's groups wonder if these programs are as effective as they could be when it comes to achieving equality in a patriarchal society.
More disturbingly, some other women's groups say these efforts, if not done well, may actually endanger women. FULL POST
"When they cut off my nose and ears, I passed out," 19-year-old Bibi Aisha of Afghanistan says with chilling candor.
Her beauty is still stunning and her confidence inspiring. It takes a moment for the barbaric act committed against her to register in your mind and sight.
Wearing her patterned scarf and with roughly painted nails she shares her story.
"It felt like there was cold water in my nose, I opened my eyes and I couldn't even see because of all the blood," she remembers.
It was an act of Taliban justice for the crime of shaming her husband's family. FULL POST
Afghan women won the world's attention nine years ago following the routing of Taliban troops at the hands of U.S. and Afghan forces. Back then, a rush of dignitaries flew to Kabul to denounce the Taliban's brutal treatment of women, although the world had largely forgotten these same women during the previous seven years.
No school, no work, no leaving the house without a man - even a boy would do. These are the laws Afghan women learned to live with, because they had to. Yet they also found a way to work around those rules. Throughout the Taliban years, Afghan women ran aid organizations, practiced medicine, taught schools and ran businesses. They refused to be victims; instead, they led their communities and helped them survive desolate years of economic collapse and political isolation.
What's it mean to be a woman in Afghanistan? Chances are you can't read or write, you married before you were 18 years old and have around 6 kids, and you may be working — but you're getting paid half of what your male counterparts make.
Women and girls continue to lack access to justice and education and suffer from high rates of violence eight years after the fall of the Taliban, according to a report released this week from the Human Rights Watch. The group calls on Afghanistan and the international community to keep women's rights a priority, even as President Obama outlines a new security strategy.
CNN's Atia Abawi examines the plight of a particular group of women - Afghan widows. Left without a husband and often no other male family member, widows struggle to survive because of few options for women to earn an income. Options outside the home are limited where the Taliban holds sway in Afghanistan. And even in areas not overrun by the Taliban, women face risks outside the home because of cultural and societal pressures.
Update: Many readers have asked how they could help. Here are some organizations that have been approved in the past as part of CNN's Impact Your World project:
Women for Afghan Women
Women for Women International
Vital Voices Global Partnership