The Dawoodi Bohra community of Chicago hosted a two-day event, the Women Entrepreneurs Expo – or “Mashtal” – at their masjid, Burhani Park Complex, at Willow brook, IL from 10am to 6pm, Saturday September 10 & Sunday September 11, 2022.
The Dawoodi Bohras of Chicago have lived and worked peacefully here since the 1950s. They are Muslims who hail from South Asia under the leadership of His Holiness Dr Mufaddal Saifuddin; over 1,000 families worship at Al-Masjid-al-Badri in Willowbrook, IL.
The word “Mashtal” means nursery. The expo seeks to nurture the business ventures of Dawoodi Bohra women, enabling them to use their talents and skills to develop small-scale businesses. The word “Bohra” means traders, and Mashtal taps into this deep-seated tradition. And their message is, “Mashtal – Nurture Your Venture!” Their aim is to develop small scale and household businesses of women within the community to use their skills to support their families and help them achieve excellence in their respective fields.
Over 50 committee members, primarily women, came together for over 6 months of planning. Several committees were formed to distribute this immense amount of work including Decor, Food, Accommodations, IT/AV, PR, Marketing, Sponsorships, Infrastructure & Construction, and Flow Management. Because Mashtal is an international event, the Chicago core committee was in constant communication with the central Mashtal department in Mumbai. Members of His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s family attended the event.
US Congressman Raja Krishnamurthy, Representative Jim Durkin, DuPage County Elected Officials, the Mayors of Willowbrook and Glendale Heights were amongst many local VIPs who attended the formal opening ceremony. The names of some of the VIPs present: Karen Yarbrough, Cook County Clerk, Bob Berlin, DuPage County State Attorney, James Mendrick, DuPage County Sheriff, Greg Hart, DuPage County Board Member, Frank Trilla, Mayor of Willowbrook, Chodri Khokhar, Mayor of Glendale Heights, Linda Painter – DuPage County Forest Preserve Commissioner, Greg Boltz – Downers Grove Assessor, Michele Bauman, Avon Township Supervisor, Asif Yusuf, Oakbrook Trustee, Suresh Reddy, Oakbrook Trustee, Theresa Sullivan, Naperville Councilwoman, Quin O’Brien, Gurneee Trustee, Saba Khan, Morton Grove Trustee; Shia Imami Esmaili community President Imran Dhatwani & Mrs Dhatwani, Mr. Sadruddin Noorani, Ms. Madison Signor on behalf of Congressman Sean Casten.
Mashtal Chicago also arranged free seminars ranging on topics such as the practicalities of breast feeding to strategies for a successful career to women’s mental health and tips on overcoming exhaustion. DIY projects for children to enjoy and a variety of food stalls with Indian street food and traditional barbeque fare were available. Members of the public experienced a wide range of vendors of clothes, beauty products, jewelry designers, and home décor, as well as realtors and travel agents.
Most of the women-owned businesses at the expo were operated by members of the USA community of Dawoodi Bohrs, but women-owned businesses from India, Pakistan, Dubai, and Canada also attended. Ongoing environmentally friendly projects were on display with demonstrations on how to reuse, reduce, and recycle. There were exciting prizes in a fun filled raffle. Overall, there were 70+ stalls, of which about 40 were local vendors, 12 out of country, 30 out of state!
The VIP Reception was emceed by Shabbir Karimi. As is the tradition, the program began with a recitation from the Holy Quran by 11-year old Tameem Al-Qamari, a Hafiz, followed by a beautiful rendition of the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, by Rashida Moosabhoy and Amatullah Morbiwala.
Congressman Raja Krishnamurthy applauded the tremendous efforts put forth by the Bohra community women; he said, “Count me in as an ally, resource and partner in everything that you are doing!”
Mansoor Broachwala, on behalf of Dawoodi Bohra Community, welcomed all the guests to the first ever Mashtal Expo in the Midwest area, and expressed his hope to make it a recurring event. He spoke about Maulatona Khadija, wife of the Prophet Mohammed. a successful businesswoman in her own right 1400 years ago, from whose strength and entrepreneurial spirit Dawoodi Bohra women community worldwide draw inspiration to this day.
Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough said, “A lot is going on out there in the world, but the one thing we have to strive for in the world is peace. Peace, a simple word, but it seems tough for us to get there. So I wish all of you peace today from me from the Cook County Clerk’s office.” She presented a Certificate of Appreciation to the Bohra community from Cook County.
Greg Hart, running candidate for DuPage County Chairman, was also invited to speak. DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick in his speech, praised the community for being very quiet, with zero crime. State Attorney Bob Berlin, who has served DuPage for the past 30 years, shared that 60 percent of all the attorneys in his office are women and he firmly believes in empowering women and fostering a culture of women empowerment.
On Sunday, Sep 11, the Honorable Tariq Karim, Consul General Pakistan in Chicago and Mrs. Aasma Karim were special guests at Mashtal. He said, “First of all I am really thankful to organizers … and all others who have contributed to this event – Mashtal.” He shared that he appreciates the two themes, business and women, because both are critically important for us. He too spoke about the role of Prophet Mohammad’s wife Khadija as an inspiration. He commended the entrepreneurial spirit of the women of the Bohra Community.
He recalled the hosting of Ashara by the Bohra Community in Karachi during the time when Pakistan had started its War on Terror initiative, and the event helped with the opening of business and trade between India and Pakistan and other neighboring countries. Using the platform, he also took the opportunity to appreciate all the Flood Relief efforts and help from the community. He appealed to all Pakistani Americans and the Muslim community at large to come forward and to continue to help the victims of flood affected areas in Pakistan. He reiterated the constructive and productive role of Pakistan’s Bohra community in Pakistan’s success.
The team worked tirelessly to promote the event through social media (IG, Facebook, and Twitter), Flyers, WGN news, and word of mouth. The expo was hosted by Burhani Women’s Association Chicago and Taalebaat ul Mumenaat, the organizations of women students and young adults.