This quirky cafe in Sialkot is breaking barriers by creating an exclusive space for women
The Communal Cafe is a safe haven for the women of Sialkot. Founded by Hamna Imran, it is a non-conformist space where women can come on their own or with their girls and sit for long hours without the fear of being harassed by unknown men.
Hamna is a Gender scholar as well as a Community and Youth practitioner who after completing her education in London reached a crossroads in her life. Confused with what to do in her future she finally decided to open up her own cafe since the freedom of visiting cafes in Pakistan was not something easily granted to her while she was growing up.
About her profession Hamna says, “I am a Community and Youth practitioner and a Gender scholar, my existence is in resistance”. The experience of living in a male dominated society where there was a lack of safe spaces for women had always troubled her. As a student in London she had access to women only cafes and she wanted to bring this concept to her country so the young women of Sialkot could enjoy the same level of safety and comfort.
After the cafe was founded, Hamna received a lot of backlash that included hate messages on Instagram. People accused her of propagating hate against men however this did not hinder her from her cause and the love she got from her supporters helped her endure this backlash with a positive attitude.
The Communal Cafe strives to create job opportunities for women by employing a female-only staff. Moreover, they buy from home-based businesses and the interior fixtures of their space are sourced by women-led businesses or businesses of those belonging to neglected communities. The interior of the cafe has a bohemian vibe which is enhanced by the row of woven lanterns hung on the ceiling. Warm tones have been used to give the space a welcoming look and on one side a neon sign on the wall reads ‘Azadi’ in urdu. This statement fits right into the space because the cafe is dedicated to giving women the freedom to visit public spaces and to live without restrictions.
The founder firmly believes in the fact that, “the only way forward in a brutal patriarchal society like ours is by resistance, disruption and by dismantling systems”. For details on their address visit their instagram page https://instagram.com/thecommunalcafesialkot?utm_medium=copy_link.