Chicago Dawoodi Bohras Host Women Entrepreneurs Expo

Attendees at a seminar during the Women Entrepreneurs Expo

Earlier this month, the Dawoodi Bohra community of Chicago hosted Mashtal, a women entrepreneur’s expo, at their masjid complex in Willowbrook, Illinois.

The word “mashtal” means “nursery” and “bohra” is the Gujarati word for “traders.”  The expo was designed to nurture  the business ventures of Dawoodi Bohra women, enabling them to market and grow their established small-scale businesses.  The event attracted people from neighboring towns and diverse communities, providing opportunities for networking and interaction.

The Pakistan Consul General in Chicago, the Honorable Mr. Tariq Karim, addressing the audience.
The Pakistan Consul General in Chicago, the Honorable Mr. Tariq Karim, addressing the audience.

The wife of Prophet Mohammed SAW, Moulatena Khadija AS, was a successful businesswoman in her own right 1,400 years ago, and it is from her that Dawoodi Bohra women worldwide draw their strength, entrepreneurial spirit and inspiration to this day. 

Attendees enjoyed perusing the wares of a variety of vendors of clothing, beauty products, jewelry designers and home décor, as well as services such as realty, travel agencies, and photography.  Most of the 70+ women-owned businesses were operated by members of the USA community of Dawoodi Bohras, but many from India, Pakistan, Dubai, and Canada were also represented. 

Sakina Khorakiwala and Zahra Master proudly display their crochet and natural soap products.
Sakina Khorakiwala and Zahra Master proudly display their crochet and natural soap products.

Mashtal also provided free seminars on topics such as strategies for a successful career and women’s mental health, and tips on overcoming exhaustion.  Ongoing environmentally-friendly projects were on display with demonstrations on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  A children’s booth kept young ones entertained with interactive DIY projects.  Exciting prizes were given away across multiple raffles and attendees were presented with global cuisine options in the food stalls, ranging from Indian street food and Asian and Mexican fusions to traditional American fare. 

“Count me in as an ally, resource and partner in everything that you are doing!” – Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.
“Count me in as an ally, resource and partner in everything that you are doing!” – Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.

VIP guests attended a formal opening ceremony on Saturday.  Speakers included Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, DuPage County board member Greg Hart, DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick, and State Attorney Bob Berlin, who came together to learn about and support this women-centric community initiative.

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough presented a Certificate of Appreciation to the Bohra community.
Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough presented a Certificate of Appreciation to the Bohra community.

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough presented a Certificate of Appreciation to the Bohra community from Cook County that stated, “The Dawoodi Bohra community represents an important part of the American story.  You are entrepreneurs and professionals, academicians and physicians, lawyers and government employees.  In all that you do, it mirrors the qualities that make Bohras stand out globally.  You are peace loving, law abiding and industrious, and place a high value on education and community service.”

At the opening ceremony, speakers also highlighted Project Rise, a global Dawoodi Bohra initiative focused on uplifting the lives of vulnerable people through disaster relief, protecting the environment, and providing food, health, water, and sanitization to those that need it most.

The Pakistan Consul General in Chicago, the Honorable Mr. Tariq Karim and Mrs. Aasma Karim visited Mashtal on Sunday.  The Consul General praised the combination of Islamic culture and business entrepreneurship of the women of the community.  He also appealed to community members to come forth and support the flood relief efforts for Pakistan.  Members of Project Rise gave a brief presentation of their outreach activities in general and Pakistan flood relief activities.

Mrs. Aasma Karim in conversation with Mashtal participants.
Mrs. Aasma Karim in conversation with Mashtal participants.

The event organizers hope that Mashtal, held regularly in India, would also become a recurring event in the US.

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