Have you ever bought a plate of golgappas or panipuris prepared by a woman? Walk into the café on the ground floor of Pearls Square in Tolichowki to taste one. Not just panipuris and golgappas but remember you are entering a women's only zone.

On the ground floor of Pearls Square, there is a café and catering service; on the first floor is a gym and workstation and the terrace is an open space for get-togethers and parties. And what's unique about all these is that it is a 'fulcrum for women by women'.

Pearls Square in Tolichowki is mainly a hangout place exclusively for women, run entirely by women. "Except for the watchman, all working here are women," laughs Abida Fatima, founder of Pearls Square.



Citing the lack of free, safe, open spaces for women, 40-year-old Abida, a resident of Khader Bagh in Hyderabad started this unique venture with two of her friends on March 15, 2021. Initially, they started café and gym facilities. Then came the lockdown, which Abida describes as their biggest challenge. But with the challenge came an opportunity to provide catering services to a quarantine center in the city. The deal was to serve breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner for 45 days.

Abida says there were challenges in the initial days. "We were new people, so we had to learn the marketing strategies, individually go from house to house popularizing our new initiative," recalls Abida.

With Covid fears still looming large and people hesitating to walk out o their homes, challenges persist. But Abida and her team take it all with a smile.

Single mother entrepreneurs

Abida and one of her friends are single mothers who also juggle between the dual tasks of looking after the business as well as their kids all by themselves. "Yes, it's hard. But we are trying our best to cope with it. Also, my kids are very understanding and mature enough to look after themselves. Sometimes, I bring my younger child along with me here and she completes her homework sitting at the work station," smiles Abida.



The other women working here are well supported by their families and hence it's easier for them to manage both simultaneously.

A space exclusively for women

Abida staunchly feels that there is a need for spaces exclusively for women. "Women are more comfortable in such places rather than public parks, cafes, or theatres," says Abida.

Recalling her own experiences as a volunteer for the city-based NGO Amoomat Society, Abida says, "We used to have meetings in the afternoon and so we missed our lunch on several days. I and my friends couldn't find a comfortable place where we can eat, at least have some snacks," says Abida.

This, she says was one of her observations that lead to the start of Pearls Square.

Besides, Abida also points out the lack of freedom that women have in their homes. "Firstly, there is very little space in our homes, especially in flats. Women cannot sit with their friends, talk, laugh, and scream with family members moving around," says Abida. Pearls Square is truly a space where women can be themselves. "Women can come over here, sit under a neem tree gulping panipuris, enjoy the breeze and forget their worries," says Abida.



Moreover, Pearls Square is not just a place for women to relax, but also one where women can work. Women can book tables in the workstation in Pearls Square and sit there and work, a concept very relevant to the work-from-home culture we are living in. "Some women find it hard to work with kids and other family members around. This is for them," says Abida.

Abida cheers all women who are planning to start something in their lives. "Whatever you are trying to start, there will be challenges. Don't think what others would say. Just go ahead and do it. Only then you will discover the result, good or bad. And on all those people passing negative comments on your initiative, believe that there will be a time when they will feel better about it," says Abida.

Pearls Square is also offering driving classes for women with female instructors on wheels.

How to reach: Take a bus and get down at Tolichowki. Pearls Square located in Aditya Nagar Colony in Tolichowki is just 750 m from the Tolichowki bus stop.

Nimisha S Pradeep

Hailing from Palakkad, Kerala, Nimisha completed her MA in Communication (with a specialization in Print and New Media) from the University of Hyderabad. She has interned with The Hindu Metroplus, Chennai and The Sentinel, Assam. She was a fellow of the NFI Fellowship for Independent Journalists in 2021. In 2015, she attended the Jenesys Student Exchange Programme in Japan. She firmly believes in the power of words and the impact it can make on society. She looks forward to using her career in journalism to voice the issues of minorities. Her interest areas include gender, women and society. She pursues travel, photography, and music in her leisure time.

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