We met at a dhaba, four members of Girls at Dhabas, a feminist activist movement and us, four women. The dhaba which is an open-air roadside tea-shop, is largely, if not only, occupied by men. The roadside setting with the loud buzz of the city made it impossible to voice record the interview.
The men who surrounded us paid attention right from the beginning in a friendly curious way. There was sporadic staring, no aggression, no prejudice towards us or the girls, who demand their slice of participation in the public space in order to normalize the circulation of the female gender.
Founding member, writer and activist Sadia Khatri
Soha Tanwir Khan one of the organisers of the Aurat March – a deployment on Women’s day against violence in all forms
Baresham Khan: “I think twice before I leave home with lipstick on.”
Artist and writer Fiza Khatri works on notions of how we live and the dynamics of the spaces we occupy.
Sadia Khatri and her companions share similar records, all of them have experienced discrimination and abuse of varying degrees and reject to remain silent about it.
Their community is very small and their issues complex: sexual abuse, harassment, mugging up to the point of rape are some of the very basic plights of their movement. For this very reason, the collective believes that staying away from public spaces, locked up at home won’t prevent women from abusive offences.
Sadia and her friends tell us that home is where most of the sexual assaults happen, “The hurdle stands right in the middle of the living room! You need a thick skin before you start your way out on the streets“. Degradation very often comes from female family members. If the thick skin remains: resilience mounts and the way to loitering at a dhaba is the easy part. If the thick skin starts to crack, it becomes difficult to leapfrog the hurdle and you come back to square one. The places perceived to be protective and safe are, as a matter of fact, the places where abuse hurts and weakens most.
Pushing the claim on public spaces is empowering and becomes an encounter of a shared point for meeting and socializing for both genders. Girls at Dhaba know perfectly well how to share their experiences via social media. To share them by simply sitting outside seems very radical but it is in fact just another important step forward towards an increase of female confidence.