Women’s History Month 2023- Dr. Shamita Das Dasgupta

This month, in honor of Women's History Month, we are honoring Rising Stars and Mothers of the Movement. Today, we are highlighting Mother of the Movement, Dr. Shamita Das Dasgupta. by Sujata Warrier 

I will always remember my first meeting with Shamita in 1988 when I moved to New Jersey and attended the monthly Manavi meeting. I was there to see how I could contribute to South Asian feminist work.  And what a joy it was to witness the way she modeled cooperative and collective work to address violence against women (VAW) in the South Asian community in the 80’s.  Founded by six South Asian women, including Shamita, the original intention of Manavi was to create a psychological, intellectual, emotional activist space for South Asian women disillusioned by mainstream feminism. However, it soon reshaped itself to become an advocacy organization driven by the needs of the women in the community.  

From that fated day, we have worked together to continue to forge Manavi. Through ups and downs and community challenges on raising awareness of a tough issue, to traveling all over the US and parts of India, she has been a guide, a friend, a colleague, a mentor and above all, my heart sister. Her commitment to community and working with all Manavi members to create a feminist organization that had men working closely with women to address violence went against feminist orthodoxy. Manavi rose to become not only an advocacy organization but a cultural and political organizing force.  Shamita was one of the first to address the transnational nature of the work that needed to be done to address the challenging needs of immigrant survivors both in the US and in South Asia.   

Dr. Shamita Das Dasgupta is also one of the mothers of the movement to end VAW. In the early 80’s, she represented the many concerns of a growing South Asian immigrant group in the US.  She is the quintessential role model for many South Asian activists working to end violence against women in our communities. She has been at the forefront of working on the intersection of all forms of patriarchy, racism, and other forms of oppression when these concerns were barely addressed in mainstream advocacy organizations and were definitely not addressed in our communities. A close friend of Ellen Pence, she worked with her to address resistive violence by women faced with ongoing relentless brutality by their spouses and family.  

Pictured from left to right are Dr. Shamita Das Dasgupta, Maneesha Kelnar, Dr. Sujata Warrier, and Seema M. Singh. 

Although she always labels herself a community activist (and she absolutely is that), she is also one of the rare women who has established herself as an academic. A prolific writer, she has authored not only scholarly articles, chapters, and books but also many works of fiction. She writes in both English and Bengali and is widely cited by many scholars for her pioneering research that always spotlighted the lived experiences of survivors. The recipient of many awards and accolades, Shamita’s feet are firmly planted in community and grassroots organizing.  That is the model I try to emulate. 

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