For the first time in the history of Yemen, a businesswoman has opened a café exclusively for girls. Girls Café came to give the Yemeni women more comfort and freedom, well suited to the traditions of Yemen’s conservative society.
Yemen lacks public parks, resorts and places where women can casually spend their free time. Most women in Yemen suffer from a male-dominated culture where men prefer women to stay at home while they spend most of their time outside the house. Many Yemeni families don’t allow their girls to be in mixed (co-ed) cafes, for women’s presence in a room crowded with men doesn’t comply with the Islamic religion teachings and traditions. The overcrowding of men prevents women from speaking or even moving comfortably in these establishments..
To address these issues, Najat al-Qwas decided to open a café for girls. al-Qwas said that the reasons that pushed her to establish this cafe is the need of Yemeni women for a place that suits the community culture and at the same time meets the standards of safety and comfort due to the lack of such atmosphere in Sana’a, “the café gives women the freedom to enjoy themselves and have fun with privacy required for our daughters,” she said.
Najla, a worker in the Ministry of Health, said that before she used to go to mixed cafes with hers friends to break their daily routine, but they could never be comfort because of the men presence.
“I found a lot of comfort, safety and privacy in Girls Café, where I can practice whatever I want without embarrassment, which reflected positively on my work and the rest of the day. Unfortunately there are no cafes with this privacy,” said Najla, who considers Girls Café a wonderful and great initiative that suits our customs and traditions.
Nasim Mohsen, student, said that the café is a very comfortable place and she comes to it every day with her friends to study, “when I am in Girls Café, I feel as if I am at home, we can take our veils, laugh, eat, study and use the internet without the crowding of men. In Girls Café everything is convenient for girls.”
According to al-Qwas the opening of the café received satisfaction by more than 90% of the visitors with the presence of several suggestions to improve the café and provide better service in the future.
“Our goal was to provide a good place for high school and university girls, but we surprised with customers from all levels housewives, educated women, students and workers,” she pointed “that shows the importance of the project that achieved their satisfaction”.
The café’s guests have numbered more than expected, especially in the evening when work ends and women are free to drink coffee and discuss different topics.
Yemeni women have been deprived from a lot of opportunities like education and entertainment, so this café strives to enable women to engage in feminist debates while encouraging others to have business meetings or study/reading sessions. New friendships can be made, and new knowledge or insight gained through daily discussions.
In addition to all that, the café provides job opportunities to girls. There eight female workers in the café. Eman Ahmed, accountant, explains that she graduated from high school and was directly “employed” to help my family, “they didn’t allow me to work in any place but when they learned it was for girls, they agreed,” she said ” I really enjoy my time in the café and all the visitors are so kind with me”.
The café provide the girls with drinks, food, ice cream and internet.