From MHC chai groups to #DhabaForWomen

November 19, 2015 at 11:03 AM

At MHC's LITS, where it all started, circa 2012. The chai group met regularly on campus in various locations. They are now trying to build community in Pakistan with a #DhabaForWomen.

Natasha Ansari '13 and Sadia Khatri '14, along with other MHC alumnae, have been reclaiming traditionally male-dominated public spaces in Pakistan using the hashtag #GirlsAtDhabas. Little did they know how quickly it would spread. Inspired by the community and conversations they had as students on campus, Natasha and Sadia continue to work towards changing gender expectations throughout South Asia:

Our time spent at Mount Holyoke has been fundamental to our activism, particularly with our work with #GirlsAtDhabas. It was conversations we had in various classrooms, Eliot House, the Library, dorm kitchenettes and lounges, where ideas were facilitated around inclusivity, diversity and community, which have stayed with us, and today, have mobilized us halfway across the world.

Every Friday after lunch, a group of South Asian women from different backgrounds would gather for chai and conversation, joined by other members of the College community. Hours often passed like this, discussing faith, gender, feminism, womanhood, South Asia and class, while someone else rushed inside the kitchen to brew more chai. Because tea drinking is not (in principle) defined by any single identity, it became a fantastic way to create community.

Since moving back to Pakistan, after Mount Holyoke, we have attempted to build similar community over chai, and our efforts have found greater resonance than we anticipated. Our newest initiative, #DhabaForWomen, will be a community space + teashop modeled after Eliot House. It will serve as a pocket of oxygen in Karachi, as Mount Holyoke once did for us in South Hadley. 

Collectively signed,

Natasha Ansari '13, Sara Pervaiz Amjad '13, Sadia Khatri '14, Ajapa Sharma '13, Qanitah Malik '17, Mehrbano Raja '14, Javaria Khan '15, Sanayah Malik '14, Zehra A. Khan '14, Fiza Khatri '15, Areeba Kamal '16, Ifrah Shahi '13, Chiara Clemente '14, Sara Rashid '15, Fiona Khandokar '12, Priyanka Krishnamoorthy '15, Saba Mirza '11, Meeran Karim '13, Mehnaz Tasnim '13, Amra Sharif '15, Swastina Shrestha '13, Anusha Yadav '14, Garima Batra '15, Sukriti Singh '15, Vedika Birla '15, Aditi Sarkar '14, Melina Baron Deutsch '15, Fiza Hussain '15

More about #GirlsAtDhabas:
How drinking tea became an act of female rebellion
#GirlsAtDhabas: How Eating in Public Became a Thing in Pakistan

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MHC Development

Written by MHC Development