Story by: Fariha Fatima | Translation by: Kumail Soomro
KARACHI: Women make up around half of the world population and they have been for decades campaigning around the world for equality and the provision of the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
Developed societies witnessed prosperity after it harnessed the power of women and provided equal opportunities, while others including Pakistan were left behind after women were left out of the labor force and shackled to the stringent confines of the household.
In order to reclaim the public space and provide the opportunity to them, some courageous women have established an exclusive women-only dhabba in an impoverished area in Mauripur Road area.
Dhabba is a roadside small hotel. The presence of women on dhabbas was unheard of even a few years earlier. A Facebook group “Girls at Dhabbas’ which grew into a movement aimed to empower women to reclaim public spaces by visiting dhabbas and other venues mainly considered for men.
However, the dhabba which was referred to earlier aims at self-empowerment rather than resistance. It was established after financial assistance of the Women Development Foundation, in an area where women seldom stepped out of their homes or without a male relative, and no thought was ever given that women need peace of mind and recreation.
Bakhtiar, a visitor said “This dhabba provides recreation, but also gives a sense of belonging. That it was created for us. Someone cared about us and considered that women also need recreation.”
Apart from the tea and scrumptious parathas, the dhabba also provides indoor board games such as ludo and carom where women not only entertain themselves but also learn other skills.
Bakhtiar is also skilled in embroidery and hand-knitting and is seen teaching the skills to other girls at the dhabba. The management also arranges similar activities such as providing training and skills to women, or occasionally screening documentaries as well.
President Women Development Foundation Sabiha Shah told ARY News that the main purpose to set up this dhabba was to provide solace and peace of mind to women, and an opportunity to escape their claustrophobic routine lives.
“Women after their household work and making their families comfortable also need a temporary escape for recreation and peace of mind,” she said.
She said that security situation and peace has gradually returned to Mauripur Road. “Now girls go to school and complete their education, and also get small job opportunities, which was unthinkable a few years ago”
Sabiha and her team have also established a reading corner which school girls use for reference, and even use the computer and free internet facilities to keep update with events around the world.
When asked if area residents allow women to come to the dhabba? Sahiba said that they have established their trust in short span of time.
“The lives of women changed dramatically after frequent visits to the dhabba. Not only did they get recreation but also learn skills which improves their financial situation.”
According to her, area residents were soon convinced that the dhabba was set up with good intentions and to improve the lives and welfare of women. Therefore, they had no objections and allow women to come over often.
The women present there agreed saying that the dhabba is a blessing and they are grateful for it. They wished that similar initiatives are undertaken in other impoverished areas for the recreation of women.