Chhaya Datar is a Reader and Head of the Unit of Women's Studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, India. Most recently, Chhaya was a visiting Fulbright Scholar at Chatham College, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. The Fulbright scholarship is a highly prestigious award, offered by the US government to individuals with extra-ordinary potential.
Chhaya is a member of the Standing Committee for Women's Studies by the University Grant Commission of India, which monitors the Women's Studies Centres located in the different universities. She is also a member of the National Resource Group (NRG) for Mahila Samakhya, a program to mobilise women in rural areas for formal and non-formal education ongoing in six states.
At TISS, Chhaya teaches three courses. She also acts as the Director of major projects. One action-research project, under Chhaya's directorship, was a community consultancy for Rural Piped Drinking Water, Sanitation and Higher Education project, implemented by the government of Maharashtra and assisted by the British Overseas Development Administration. The project covers two districts and 189 villages in Maharashtra. It started in 1992 and continued through 1999.
Another project tests a model developed for enhancing productivity, with sustainability and equability as underlying principles, in dry land area, with reference to access to natural resources to poor women. The project has policy implications, as it aims to improve bio-literacy among land-less and poor peasant women. They can become self sufficient in three to five years and will not ask for Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS) for employment in the future.
She was the General Secretary of the Indian Association of Women's Studies during 1996-98. During her tenure, the organisation held two major events. A seminar was organised under the title, "The Early Years of Indian Experience: Women's Perspectives." Two hundred women attended. The VIIIth National Conference of Women's Studies at Pune was attended by 650 participants, men and women. "Survival and Sovereignty: Challenges to Women's Studies" was divided into four panels for four days and papers were invited into four sub-themes.
She was a founding member of "Stree Mukti Sanghatana," which took the initiative in organising Stree Mukti Yatra in 1985. The Yatra covered 11 towns and 7 villages in western Maharashtra, spreading the message of women's liberation outside the big cities like Mumbai and Pune. Later, she was associated for seven years with the editorial collective that published an annual entitled, "Stree Uvach" (women speak).
Chhaya is the author of several books and published papers.
She became active in social movements in 1972. Since then, she has worked in several youth, trade union, and women's organisations on a voluntary basis. She was a short story writer early in her career and published two collections. Later she developed an interest in serious writing, especially on women's issues. She was awarded a Dutch Government Scholarship to study women's issues, in a more systematic manner. She completed the Master's degree course in The Hague, Netherlands. After this, she earned a PhD from S.N.D.T. Women's University in Mumbai.