Chaitali Das, , Global Chairperson & Managing Trustee, Rakshak Foundation (estb. 2014), Signatory Member, United Nation Global Compact is a testament to the fact that some people help others solely out of generosity. Das gave women living behind the bars, a platform to create livelihood. To be in social work was a choice, she consciously made. Starting from making jute more attractive and saleable to giving women power to become what they want, she is deeply instrumental in bringing social change. Rakshak Foundation is a Kolkata based Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) organization. The Foundation works in the area skill development, women empowerment, environment conservation, art, creativity, and health welfare. Interestingly, Chaitali Das holds a Guinness World Record for making world’s largest jute bags with innovative designs.
In an interview with The Optimist News, Das shared her insights and future plans –
Daughter of a public prosecutor and a professor of law, Chaitali Das initially worked in a multinational company and as an admin. As a part of her job she used to oversee the legal aspect of the organization while she continued with her philanthropic activities. Her life’s first inspiration is her mother who has always helped everyone who asked for it. Her kind and supporting husband is her second biggest inspiration, who helps her in every step she takes.
As women empowerment is highly imperative in a man dominated world, and Das ensures that by giving voice to those who are helpless and are in jail, by creating a platform for their livelihood. She started with teaching these women basic English, as she was going to open a café where these women will be employed, but sadly the initiative did not take place due to security issues. Indomitable that Das is she took a plethora of projects subsequently including forming a leather bag unit, a homeopathy medicine making unit and so on. Later she started working on jute and was successful in making it profitable and linking it with sustainable development goals. Her project is known as “Jute Story Beyond Bars”, which is an eco friendly green movement targeted towards reviving the use of jute and establishing jute as a fashion statement for people. This movement has several awards and accolades and has been recognized by several prestigious Government nominated and sponsored International programs.
Breaking the glass
Das has also set up a computer lab to encourage girls from rural areas to be digitally literate. “I found out that they are fast learners and have smartphones with them”. A lot of CSO are working in this regard like computer literacy. The government is letting people access computers. “Girls from rural areas are smart than expected and I so glad to see that,” says Mrs. Das.
Initially, people had taken Das very lightly as they thought a rich woman like her is just showing her money off. “Interviewer asked me, do I fancy doing this? I remember, I said even if it’s fancy what the harm is?” Hurdles were there, she was treated as a normal person who has no voice but her firm behavior and mentality of changing the perspective of looking at women have made her what she is today.
Her new project ‘Kali’ is dedicated towards women empowerment. “Many national and international poets have contributed verses on women empowerment. I have organized a reading session of such poetry on March 25. Women from various walks of life will be joining, maintaining safety protocols,” she informed.
Earlier projects like ‘Patrani’ ‘Heritage Tram’ have been deftly accomplished by Rakshak foundation. She also invited Ivy Woolf Targ, a prison inmate from the United States, as a guest speaker in one of the events held at ICCR. “Prerna Roy another speaker who was accidentally burned also came for the event and shared her life story. We see that the adversities are same; the challenges are same for all the women from around the world,” lamented Das.
At present, Das is focused on the reformation and revival of jute and is also targeting poverty elevation and women empowerment. She wants to reach out to as many needy women at the grass root and mid-level as possible. According to this die-hard philanthropist voices of underprivileged women needs to be heard so as to attain gender equality in the true sense.