North Carolina Volunteer Inspires Positive Change and Civic Leadership in Her Community

Daily Point of Light # 7632 Sep 4, 2023

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Shanta Dutta. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light. 

Not only is Shanta Dutta a full-time technology architect at a bank and a mother of two, but she is also the founder and president of Bengali Women’s Forum in Charlotte, N.C. Shanta created the Bengali Women’s Forum to empower the local and greater Bengali community while focusing on equity for equality, equal opportunity and opportunity for wellbeing.  

One of the events she is most proud of helps inspire young adults to become civic leaders, teaching them how those roles can create positive change in society. Additionally, Shanta emphasizes the importance of bringing people of all genders, ages and backgrounds together to work toward a common goal. She wants to show volunteers that in order to bring lasting change, people must work together towards common goals.  

What inspires you to volunteer? 

What inspires me to volunteer is the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of individuals and communities. Knowing that my actions, along with those of fellow volunteers, can positively impact others is a powerful motivator. Volunteering allows me to align my personal values with meaningful actions, fostering a sense of purpose and fulfillment. I’m inspired by the idea of contributing to a cause I care deeply about like those championed by the Bengali Women’s Forum and being part of a collective effort to create positive change.

Shanta Dutta is the founder and president of Bengali Women’s Forum./Courtesy Shanta Dutta

Describe your volunteer role with Bengali Women’s Forum. 

As the president and founder of the Bengali Women’s Forum (BWF), I am dedicated to driving our organization’s mission of fostering empowerment within our community. While acknowledging the historical significance of women’s roles, our core principles center around equal opportunities and collaborative efforts among all members. 

BWF’s guiding motto is “Aamrai Poriborton.” It’s a Bengali phrase, and it means, “We are the Change.” It underlines our commitment to addressing pressing issues impacting our diverse community in Charlotte. My role involves conceptualizing and executing events such as community-awareness campaigns, panels on various topics, and active participation in volunteering with shelters and cultural organizations as well. Additionally, I lead efforts in advocating for positive action, coordinating programs for holistic growth and providing educational opportunities for all age groups. 

On the BWF website it says, “Over the course of history, women have played some of society’s most significant roles.” Is there a woman in your life who has inspired you to support other women? 

My mom and my mom-in-law. They were heavily involved in community betterment. In India they were involved in many nonprofit organizations. My mom-in-law has passed, but my mom continues her charity work. They were both involved in many organizations that support villages where people are living their life with almost no opportunities, and every day they struggle with their basic amenities and food. The organizations raise funds to help them get the basic facilities and help them with the essentials. Basic facilities in terms of education – building the schools, appointing teachers for them. Also, my mom-in-law used to volunteer with an organization that brings doctors into those villages as well. She would coordinate the logistics and ensure the funds were going to the right people. 

What has been the most rewarding part of your work? 

One cherished memory that comes to mind is an event we hosted. There is natural leadership in children, and I don’t believe that traditional career paths like scientists and engineers are the only option for bright minds. One crucial role often overlooked is civic leadership because many avoid it due to negative perceptions, but without legislators and diplomats, our communities and nations are stagnant. I think that it’s our duty to educate children on the roles of government and administration as we share responsibility for grooming future leaders. That is why we organized an event and named it Leaders in the Making – Our Children are Tomorrow’s Civic Leaders. It was a huge success. 

Another rewarding part of my work has been witnessing the transformation and empowerment of individuals within our community. Seeing women and men from diverse backgrounds come together, access resources and develop personally and professionally has been truly fulfilling. It’s immensely rewarding to know that our efforts at Bengali Women’s Forum are helping community members overcome challenges, achieve their goals and lead more empowered lives. The sense of unity and collaboration fostered within our organization has been deeply rewarding, as it highlights the positive impact we can make when we work together towards common goals. 

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

Through my experiences as a volunteer with the Bengali Women’s Forum, I have learned the immense power of collective action. Working alongside dedicated individuals who shared a common goal has really reinforced the idea that together we can affect meaningful change. I have also gained a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by community members, particularly in areas such as health, social welfare, education and equal opportunity as well.  

Shanta and the other members of the Bengali Women’s Forum board strive to address issues that are affecting both women and men in Charlotte, N.C./Courtesy Shanta Dutta

Tell us about future partnerships, programs or events that you are excited about. 

I’m thrilled to share that in November, we are actively collaborating with community leaders from Cambodia, China, Philippines, Korea and more to organize an event named, “Behind the Badge.” This event will focus on opportunities within the Asian Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD). It’s going to be a fantastic initiative aimed at empowering our community’s youth and providing them with insights into potential career paths in law enforcement and public service. We are looking forward to making a significant impact through this event and continuing to forge valuable partnerships for the betterment of our community. 

Why is it important for people to get involved in causes they care about? 

Getting involved in volunteerism is an excellent means to connect with your community and its residents. Each of us possesses unique gifts and challenges, all of which are crucial in realizing the full potential of our community. When we unite to address important issues, remarkable achievements become really, really possible. It becomes easy. 

Our mission at the Bengali Women’s Forum is to harness these talents and unite women and men from all the backgrounds to confront pressing social challenges. We are committed to remedying key issues such as health, social welfare, education and barriers to equal opportunity. In the interim, we also serve as a beacon of hope for our neighbors facing difficult circumstances, fulfilling our mission to empower individuals, strengthen our community, and make positive change our reality. I am inspired by JFK’s words, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” 

What do you want readers to learn from your story? 

I want to emphasize that life extends beyond education and career growth. It’s about helping others whenever possible. Also, I’m grateful for my dedicated team, whose unwavering support has been invaluable on this journey. 

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Shanta? Find local volunteer opportunities. 

Bethany Schattner