In a two-part series to mark International Women’s Day, guest writer Amena Matcheswala – a Senior at Athens Drive Magnet High School in Raleigh and Editor In Chief of the school newspaper the Athens Oracle – speaks to women in her community about how their faith has helped them to succeed in their chosen paths.
The women of Raleigh’s Dawoodi Bohra Community are like many others in America: they go to work, they spend time with their families, and they strive to balance their social lives and careers. However, they do all this while keeping alive the flame of tradition that makes a Bohra unique. This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the Dawoodi Bohra women of the Raleigh community, who have successfully played these important roles throughout the generations.
Maleka Qayumi was born and raised in Raipur, India. She relocated to the United States, spending 15 years in Virginia before moving to North Carolina and establishing the Raleigh community nearly 35 years ago. During that time, her success as a medical professional includes time spent in residency, 10 years of medical work with the army, and finally a switch to the private sector. Qayumi’s career successes are matched by her continued involvement with the Bohra community.
“We were the only Bohra people there when we came to North Carolina. When I was in Fort Bragg, we were the only Bohra family, but we started driving an hour and a half to Raleigh when we found out about the community here, and eventually, we moved to Raleigh which made it easier,” said Qayumi.
Qayumi’s admirable achievements are even more laudable in the face of an ongoing crisis of work-life struggle faced by women. Pew Research Center has shown that 51% of mothers with children under the age of 18 find that parenthood has made career advancement more difficult, as opposed to only 16% of men.
Zainab Qayumi, Maleka’s daughter-in-law, has also seen the ways in which balancing tradition and trailblazing the path towards being a modern woman can be a delicate structure to uphold. Zainab has walked this fine line, finding pride in the way she and her partner find balance in the burdens of parenting while she pursues her career.
Zainab has leaned on the strength of her community in the face of these modern struggles. She recounts her childhood, where she joined the local community women’s groups such as Talebaat al Muminaat, an organization of young girls that would work together on community service projects, helping Zainab form sister-like relationships with girls her age. Now, as she watches her two sons grow up in Raleigh, she finds that the Bohra community provides the same support systems.
“We find ways to have events where we can get together; do a beach trip or picnics to have a community sense,” said Zainab. “It may be different than the other Jamaats because we’re smaller but we’re able to have events with the whole community. It’s more intimate!”