iMahal Interview Series:
Chhaya Datar
June 12, 2000

iMahal: We would like to know more about your involvement in the women's movement in India.
   ... The women's movement in India is the strongest among the third world countries. There is, however ...
The women's movement in India is the strongest among the third world countries. There is, however, a lot that is yet to be accomplished, especially in the rural areas. My involvement in the movement is ongoing. Here are some examples of my participation. During 1996-1998, I was the Secretary of the Indian Association of Woman's Studies. During this time we organized two major events. One was a seminar called "The Early Years of Indian Experience: Woman's Perspectives." We had about 200 women who attended this seminar. The second event was The VIII National Conference of Women's Studies, called "Survival and Sovereignty: Challenges to Women's Studies," which was held in Pune. We had 650 participants, both men and women, who attended this four day conference. Currently I am a member of the Standing Committee for Women's Studies by the University Grant Commission of India. This group monitors the Women's Studies Centers located in different universities. I am a member of the National Resource Group (NRG) for Mahila Samakhya. This is a program to mobilize women in the rural area for formal and non-formal education. I am a founding member of the group "Stree Mukti Sanghatana," (iMahal translation: Women's Liberation Organization) whose goal is to spread the message of women's liberation outside of the big cities. This group took the initiative in organizing Stree Mukti Yatra (iMahal translation: Women's Liberation March) in 1985, where we spread the message for the need of women's liberation in 11 towns and 7 villages in western Maharshtra. The goal was to reach to areas outside of the big cities. I was also with an annual publication, called "Stree Uvach," which mean Women Speak.

iMahal: You have traveled around, both abroad and in India, to make presentations at conferences. Please tell us more about these activities.
Chhaya: In 1997 I was in Helsinki, Finland to give the inaugural speech at the Women In Development in Europe (WIDE). I was part of the International Sociology Congress in Madrid, Spain in 1990 and in Bielefeld, Germany in 1994. In 1990 I was at the International Interdisciplinary Congress in New York, USA and the American Association of Women's Studies Conference in Ohio, USA. In India, I have made presentations at all 8 Indian Association of Women's Studies Conferences.

iMahal: By now you have been in the US for almost a year. Hope you have enjoyed your stay here.
Chhaya: I enjoyed my stay in the US. I have visited here before, but this was the first time I was able to stay for a prolonged period of time and learn about life and the culture in the US. I have met some wonderful people here who are quite active in issues for enhancing the lives of those in India. Now though I am ready to go back to my family and my home.

iMahal: Before finishing this interview, we would like you to tell us what all of us can do to support the causes in which we believe?
Chhaya: My advice for the younger audience is to study development issues - take interest in the world around them. Get involved. And to those who donate to charity with the best of intentions, please do so in an informed manner. Don't donate blindly but use your money to achieve long term progress.

iMahal: Thank you for taking time out to talk with us. We wish you continued success in your endeavors.


iMahal Interview with Dr. Chhaya Datar was conducted by Jayshree Ranka. Jayshree is a software developer at Carnegie Mellon University.

Here's a personal note from Jayshree: "During the academic year of 1999-2000, Chhaya was a visiting Fulbright Scholar at Chatham College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. She was chosen by Chatham to come and participate in their anniversary celebration of Eastern Asian Studies that went on last year. It was here that I was fortunate to meet with Chayya and learn about her and her pursuit of improving the lives of women in India. When you first cast your eyes upon her, you see a highly accomplished woman, with two grown sons and a 4 year-old grandson. But when you listen to her, you realize what an energetic and inspiring woman she is and how much she has done to enhance the lives of underprivileged woman and children in India, for the feminist movement in India."


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