Hamida Ali Hazara, a woman living in one of Pakistan’s most dangerous areas, has opened a restaurant to give women work opportunities in her community. Hamida is a part of the Hazaras, one of Pakistan’s most persecuted communities, and she broke all gender barriers by opening a restaurant in the city of Quetta.
Due to persecution and the disrespect of women in the dangerous area of Balochistan, Hazara women have been unable to find any work. Many women are forced to provide as single-mothers because their community considers it insulting for a woman to earn money and run her home.
Hamida told The Nation, “I started this restaurant three months ago to empower women. This would help those women who have to run the house on their own. In our community there are many women who do not have a bread earner due to sectarian violence. It would help these women work in a friendly and safe environment and earn a respectable living.”
The restaurant employs seven women and two men, who do the accounting work, which Hamida says would be considered an unacceptable job for women.
Hamida met expected backlash from her community as she continued her venture. Even her family began to speak ill of her because of the restaurant.
“Even though relatives did say things behind my back I was not ready to quit. I will not stop because of what people think. I will do things to change their outlook towards life. For me, empowering women is the most important thing.”
It’s likely Hamida is just happy to be alive. Some were concerned she would be threatened by extremists in the area, as the Hazara people continue to be persecuted, but she felt compelled to open the restaurant in Hazara, above all other places.
“I have opened this restaurant in Hazara town where it was needed most. The mentality of people in this area has to change, that is why I purposely opened it here.”
Hamida’s ambitions are entirely centered around bettering her community. On the side, she has also opened the Hurmat e Niswa (Chastity of Women) Foundation to help empower women.
Hamida spoke to shopkeepers in her area about employing at least two women each in order to help raise women’s living conditions, as well as to improve the area’s economy.
She is also focused on educating other girls and becoming more educated herself; Hamida’s plan for the future includes attending law school, so as to help fight for the rights of other women.
For now, however, her focus is on improving the lives and palates of the people at her restaurant, aptly named Hazara restaurant. On the menu, you can find things like chicken soup, zinger burger, chicken karhai, and kebabs with french fries.
“It is still considered an insult in our community that women are earning money to run the house. Despite of that, I still wanted to take the first step for women to gain confidence and earn money,” she said.
“[Women] should never have to look towards others for money, instead [they] should earn it in a respectable manner.”
Hamida Ali Hazara’s restaurant marks an important step for Hazara women in Balochistan. Hopefully, women will continue to empower each other and change the way they are seen and respected in the community.
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