By Maria Akhter
On Oct 21st in a cozy home in Berkeley, CA, a team of Sahiyo activists organized
our first Bay Area Thaal Pe Charcha.
Thaal Pe Charcha (TPC) is a Sahiyo flagship program that allows Bohra women to come together in a private, informal setting so that they can bond over food and discuss issues that affect their lives, like Female Genital Cutting or Khatna. The program started in Mumbai, India in 2017 and is being piloted in the United States.
The weeks leading up to the Bay Area event were full of
excitement and anticipation for what we hoped would be the pilot of a new program
and the start of new friendships in the Bay Area.
The team and I spent a few weeks carefully crafting our invitations and considering
whom to include in this informal discussion about the norms and challenges of
being a Bohra woman.
With delicious food displayed on our thaals and a crisp Autumn breeze flowing in
the room, 13 women gathered around a living room and engaged in a unique
We went around the circle and introduced ourselves, sharing a memory or item in a
show-and-tell icebreaker. We discussed challenges and conflicts we’d faced in the
Bohra community in the Bay Area and globally as well as various strengths and joys
we’d experienced in the Bohra community.
Familiar faces and new ones surrounded me. My mother, childhood friend, and
fellow Sahiyo activists surrounded me with a comfort in knowing that I had their
support and that I had encouraged them to join me at this event.
The Bay Area is a tough area to operate in. Bohra women are more hesitant to speak
out and form connections with Sahiyo, so I considered this TPC a huge milestone in
breaking the silence around FGM/C in the Bay Area specifically. I could tell from
conversations that rose up that many of the women wanted a space to share their
voices and to connect with other like-minded women.
My hope is that these events continue to occur and that they grow and expand in
ways that benefit the community. There was substantial tentative interest from the
attendees in continuing to meet and my goal is to turn the Bay Area TPC group into
a consistent resource for any and all Bay Area Bohra women with an interest in
open communication and positive change.
Read more reflections on the Bay Area TPC here!