At Sahiyo’s third Thaal pe Charcha, Bohra men attended too

In October 2017, Sahiyo hosted Thaal Pe Charcha (loosely translated as ‘discussions over food’) for the third time, with 22 participants from the Bohra community. Thaal Pe Charcha is a flagship Sahiyo programme that brings Bohra women together in an informal, private space, so that they can bond over traditional Bohra cuisine while discussing Female Genital Cutting and other issues that affect their lives. While Sahiyo’s first two TPC events were open only to women participants, the October event included 15 women as well as three men from the Bohra community in Mumbai.  

Most of the women who participated in the event had already attended the previous two TPC events held in February and July. With this third event, their comfort level in discussing FGC had grown. These women also brought their friends, cousins, and other relatives to join in on the discussion. Some women expressed that they had cautiously begun speaking about FGC with their families, friends, and spouses, which they had never done earlier. The women also spoke with their spouses about not performing FGC on their daughters.

The new women participants were able to clear some of their doubts about FGC and asked questions about why it is performed and why we need to stop practicing it on the next generation. Conversations about FGC have always been taboo and secretive in the community, so being in a safe and intimate space at the TPC helped the women discuss it openly.

By listening to the stories and concerns of the women, the men who attended the Thaal Pr Charcha were able to get a deeper understanding of how the practice affects women. They were very open to discussing FGC and even suggested several ways to raise further awareness about the harms caused by the practice and how to promote abandonment of FGC.  

One of the highlights of the event was having one of the women participants, Saleha, share her story of undergoing FGC. After listening to Saleha’s story, a few women and men were in tears. Some women said they experienced flashbacks to their own experience of undergoing FGC. Saleha sharing her story helped make other women feel comfortable talking about their own FGC experiences. Many women’s stories were similar in terms of how the cutting occurred, how they felt anger, fear, shame, depression and a sense of being cheated by those they trusted.

Over lunch, men and women continued their discussion on FGC, as well as other various issues occurring within the Bohra community. Participants also discussed ways in which they could all work at the grassroots level to raise awareness about ending FGC.

 

દાઉદી બોહરા મહિલાઓ માટે ‘સહિયો’એ યોજ્યો દ્વિતીય ‘થાલ પે ચર્ચા’ કાર્યક્રમ

ગત પહેલી જુલાઈએ ‘સહિયો’એ તેનો દ્વિતીય ‘થાલ પે ચર્ચા’ કાર્યક્રમ યોજ્યો હતો. દાઉદી બોહરા સમુદાયની ૨૦ મહિલાઓએ આ કાર્યક્રમમાં હાજરી આપી હતી. ‘થાલ પે ચર્ચા’નો સામાન્ય શબ્દોમાં ‘ભોજન કરવાની સાથોસાથ ચર્ચા’ તરીકે થાય છે. ‘સહિયો’નો આ ફ્લેગશિપ કાર્યક્રમ છે, જેમાં બોહરા મહિલાઓને ખાનગી, અનૌપચારિક વાતાવરણમાં ભેગી કરાય છે, જેથી તેઓ ભોજન કરતી વખતે એકબીજાની સાથે સંબંધ બાંધે અને FGC (ફિમેલ જેનિટલ કટિંગ) અથવા ખત્ના/ખફઝ જેવી તેમના જીવનને અસર કરતી સમસ્યાઓની ચર્ચા કરી શકે.

‘સહિયો’નો પ્રથમ ‘થાલ પે ચર્ચા’ કાર્યક્રમ ફેબ્રુઆરીમાં યોજાયો હતો અને તેમાં વીસ અને ત્રીસ વર્ષથી મોટી વયની મહિલાઓએ હાજરી આપી હતી. આ વખતના કાર્યક્રમમાં તમામ વય જૂથોની મહિલાઓએ હાજરી આપી હતી, જેમાં સૌથી યુવાન મહિલા ૧૮ વર્ષની હતી જ્યારે સૌથી જઈફ ૭૪ વર્ષના હતા. આ મહિલાઓમાં વિદ્યાર્થિનીઓ, નોકરિયાત વ્યવસાયીઓ, ગૃહિણીઓ તથા એક પ્રૅક્ટિસિંગ ડૉક્ટરનો પણ સમાવેશ થતો હતો. આ ઉદારવૃત્તિ ધરાવતાં મિશ્રણો, દાઉદી બોહરા સમુદાયમાં પ્રવર્તમાન અતિ-ચર્ચિત ખત્ના પ્રથા વિશે, વિભિન્ન વસ્તીઓ ફરતે મહિલાઓની વિચાર પ્રક્રિયાઓનો તાગ મેળવવાની ‘સહિયો’ને તક પૂરી પાડી હતી.

પરિચય કરાવનારા સત્રની સાથે આ કાર્યક્રમ શરૂ થયો હતો અને ત્યાર બાદ પ્રિયા ગોસ્વામીની ફિલ્મ ‘એ પિન્ચ ઑફ સ્કિન’ દર્શાવાઈ હતી. સ્વાદિષ્ટ, પરંપરાગત થાળ ભોજન પીરસાયું હતું અને ખત્ના વિશે મહિલાઓના વિચારોની ખુલ્લા મંચ (ઓપન કોરમ)ની ચર્ચા યોજાઈ હતી.

આ સદીઓ જૂની પરંપરાના પોતાના અનુભવો વિશે વાત કરતી વખતે મહિલાઓને ભાવુક બનેલી જોઈને હિંમત સાંપડી હતી. અમુક મહિલાઓએ તેમની દીકરીઓની ખત્ના કરાવવા બદલ અફસોસ વ્યક્ત કર્યો હતો. અન્ય મહિલાઓએ જણાવ્યું હતું કે જો તેમને પસંદગી કરવાની તક મળે તો, આ અત્યંત દુઃખદાયક રીવાજ અને તેના લાભ અને ગેરલાભ વિશે કેળવણી પામવાનું તેમને ગમશે અને કદાચ તેમની પુત્રીઓની ખત્ના કરાવવાથી તેઓ દૂર રહેશે. આ કાર્યક્રમનું મુખ્ય આકર્ષણ નિશ્ર્ચિત્તપણે ૭૪ વર્ષીય વૃદ્ધા હતાં જેમણે તેમની પુત્રીની ખત્ના થવા નહીં દે, એવું સુનિશ્ર્ચિત્ત કરવા વર્ષો અગાઉ પરંપરાઓને પડકારી હતી.

(This report was originally published in English on August 16, 2017. Read the English version here.)

Sahiyo hosts its second Thaal Pe Charcha event for Bohra women

On July 1, Sahiyo conducted its second ‘Thaal Pe Charcha’ event which was attended by 20 women from the Dawoodi Bohra community. Thaal Pe Charcha (TPC), which loosely translates as “having discussions while eating food”, is a flagship Sahiyo programme where Bohra women are brought together in a private, informal setting so that they can bond over food and discuss issues that affect their lives, like FGC or Khatna.

Sahiyo’s first TPC was held in February with women in their 20s and 30s. This time, participants included women from all age groups, the youngest being 18 and the oldest 74 years of age. The women included students, working professionals, home-makers, and also a practicing doctor. This eclectic mix gave Sahiyo an opportunity to gauge the thought processes of women across different demographics, on the much-debated practice of Khatna within the Dawoodi Bohra community.

The event was kicked off with an introductory session, followed by a film screening of Priya Goswami’s ‘A Pinch of Skin’, a delicious, traditional thaal lunch, and an open forum for women to discuss their thoughts about Khatna.

It was heartening to see the women get emotional while speaking about their experiences of this age-old tradition. Some expressed regret at having done Khatna on their daughters. Others said that if given a choice, they would want to be educated about this ritual, its pros and cons, and perhaps refrain from doing it to their daughters. The highlight of this event was definitely the oldest participant, a 74-year-old woman who defied traditions years ago to ensure that her daughter was not cut.

To view more pictures from Thaal Pe Charcha, check out our Facebook Album.

Thaal Pe Charcha: A Sahiyo flagship event where Bohra women bonded over food

In February, Sahiyo held an event titled Thaal Pe Charcha (loosely translated as ‘discussions over food’), in which 16 Bohra women from Mumbai came together to discuss – for the first time – the challenges of living as young girls and women in the tightly knit Dawoodi Bohra community.

TPC pic

Invitations were sent out through word of mouth, and 16 women in their 20s and 30s signed up for the unique event. A few came with their friends, two with young children, one with their family member, while others ventured alone, but all of them attended Thaal Pe Charcha with a desire to bond with other women from the community and discuss a variety of issues affecting their lives.

Over a traditional Bohra lunch (one mithaas, one kharaas) the women opened up with their opinions on topics such as the pressure to marry early, the extreme control exercised by religious authorities on family life, the fear of social boycott and the consequent lack of freedom to speak out against social norms.

What was evident during the three hours of food and bonding was shared sense of pride the women felt about being able to stand up for themselves within their families – to stand up for their right to an education of their choice, to choose a certain career or spouse, or to have their own set of individual beliefs.

Sahiyo will be organizing more Thaal Pe Charcha events in Mumbai during the course of the year, for Bohra women of different age groups. If you are interested in attending a Thaal Pe Charcha event and would like to be kept informed, mail us at info@sahiyo.com

After all, why should all charcha happen over chai?