DEVI's x Women's CHAI Project
The organisation began very simply, with two women, sharing their truths of domestic violence, over a cup of Chai. Now, The Women's CHAI Project are a group of lively, zealous and dynamic women, working to empower other women. Amidst their individual experiences of domestic violence, and the social barriers they face as marginalised women of ethnic origin, they now encourage integration and cohesion within their local community, promoting positive female mental health and well-being. They inspire other women to bolster their self-esteem and confidence, and make constructive changes for both themselves and their children.
DEVI's were invited to host a cooking workshop in partnership with the Women's CHAI Project.
After a hot cup of Chai (what else?) and introducing ourselves, we began by discussing DEVI's signature dish - Pav Bhaji, and the multitude of ingredients that we were about to prepare. We swapped recipes of the spices that filled our cupboards as we cooked, each telling of our own personal blends. We spoke of what dishes we loved the most, the food we grew up with and the food that we cooked for our loved ones. We sat and shared our meal at the table, celebrating what we had created together.
"Food is the art of a mother's love" - Farmida Bibi
Cooking for women who inherently know their way around a kitchen, is no easy task, but to our absolute delight, they showered us with appreciation for the food before them. The experience stood as a clear testament to how significant a role food can play, in not only learning from each other, but rather, celebrating each other. What touched us the most, were the parallels between women and the emotions that food can evoke for them. Their words on what food meant to them were beautiful; food was inextricably linked with love.
"Mother's show their love through cooking... families return their love by returning empty plates" - Najma Khalid
We ended our day with an inspirational talk, where the women wanted to learn more about DEVI's, how we began, our inspirations and the graft involved in our work. It was a true privilege to stand before so many strong women, and tell them about our story.
"To me, food means making others happy, effort and reward" - Shahida Parveen
The Women's CHAI Project have gone on to publish a cookbook of their favourite recipes, and asked DEVI's to prepare a short Foreword for their book. It encapsulates our experience of our day together:
"When we were asked to deliver an inspirational session for the Women's CHAI Project, we were overwhelmed.
Being brought up in a somewhat traditional Indian family, food has always found itself at the heart of my upbringing. My earliest memories conjure women gossiping over large pots of home-brewed masala chai, and the sound of curry leaves and mustard seeds fizzing from my mother's kitchen.
It is often perceived that South Asian culture confines women to the kitchen, preparing and serving food for their families. As a child, this is not what I chose to see when observing the women that raised me. I saw brilliance, creativity and passion - women who should be revered, respected and admired.
Raising women's self-esteem is one of the main aims of The Women's CHAI Project. It has gathered women from hard to reach pockets of the Oldham community, raising their consciousness and encouraging them to share their stories and gain confidence from each other.
I felt honoured to join these women, to cook with them, to laugh together, to compare recipes and to share our meal at the table."
Our first cooking workshop is but only the first of many. We'll be sharing more with you soon.