Kudumbashree, which means prosperity of the family, is the name of the women oriented, community based, State Poverty Eradication Mission of Government of Kerala. Kerala is a tiny state lying in the south-west part of Indian federation, where many development experiments are being tested,refined and implemented.
The mission aims at the empowerment of women, through forming self help groups and encouraging their entrepreneurial or other wide range of activities. The purpose of the mission is to ensure that the women should no longer remain as passive recipients of public assistance, but active leaders in women involved development initiatives. Kudumbashree project for poverty reduction launched on 17 May 1998.
Women in Kerala
Kerala is a State with an impressive array of achievements in the field of women development and the balance of gender status has stabilised in many fronts, the details of which are available from the government website on Kerala Women
- Kerala has a high female literacy rate of 86.2%, a low IMR of 13 (against the national average of 80) a favourable sex ratio of 1032 female/1000 male, low MMR 0.8/1000, High Life Expectancy ratio 74 female/70 male etc., just to mention a few. But in spite of all these achievements the conspicuous absence of women in the public domain remains as a paradox of the Kerala model of development.
- The economic marginalisation of women in the development process has drawn considerable attention during recent years. While the female work participation rate in India increased from 19.7% to 22.7% between 1981 and 1991, in Kerala the ratio declined from 16.6% to 15.9% during the same period. The incidence of unemployment among females in the State is higher than that among males by 5 times in rural areas and 3 times in urban areas. (The unemployment in Kerala is severe and is 3 times larger than that in India.
- The sexual division of labour has resulted in the concentration of women in low paying unorganized sectors such as agricultural labour, cottage and traditional industries and selected service sectors. Despite the powerful trade union movements, equal wages for equal work still remains a mirage and gender discrimination at the work place is widely prevalent.
- The marginalisation of women in the economic process and lack of control over resources have been major impediments in improving the status of women.
- The violence against women and incidence of sexual harassment continue to increase (number of registered crimes increased from 1862 in 1991 to 4937 in 1996).
- Despite the general progressive political environment in the State, active involvement of women in various leadership levels are virtually lacking.
The mission of Kudumbashree is “to eradicate absolute poverty in ten years through concerted community action under the leadership of local governments, by facilitating organization of the poor for combining self-help with demand-led convergence of available services and resources to tackle the multiple dimensions and manifestations of poverty, holistically”.
The specific objectives are:
- Identification of the poor families through risk indices based surveys, with the active participation of the poor and the communities to which they belong.
- Empowering the poor women to improve the productivity and managerial capabilities of the community by organizing them into CBOs.
- Encouraging thrift and investment through credit by developing CDSs to work as informal bank of the poor.
- Improving incomes of the poor through improved skills and investment for self -employment.
- Ensuring better health and nutrition for all.
- Ensuring basic amenities like safe drinking water, sanitary latrines improved shelter and healthy environment.
- Ensuring a minimum of 5 years of primary education for all children, belonging to risk families.
- Enabling the poor to participate in the decentralization process through the CDS, as it is a subsystem of the local government, under which it works.
To achieve the specific objectives of the Mission, several auxiliary objectives are pursued methodically.
Kudumbashree is the inevitable offspring of the collective experience derived from the bleak plight of the anti-poverty programmes of the past. When most of the well conceived anti-poverty programmes of the Central and State Governments failed to bring about the desired result. The centrally planned, rigid, individual-oriented poverty eradication programmes of the past didn't give any room at all for the involvement and commitment of the poor and viewed the poor only as resourceless "receivers of benefits".
Poverty is a multi-faced sorry state of deprivation. Hence by meeting one disadvantage in the lives of the poor, poverty cannot be eradicated or mitigated. Naturally, the un-co-ordinated, income criteria based programmes implemented by different agencies did not come good. Moreover, though the delivery costs of such programmes were exorbitant, they were very much susceptible to under-reporting and manipulations. But in 1992 a beacon light of good hope penetrated the dark and morbid scenario prevailed in Kerala. This was in the form of an innovative program introduced by the Local Administration Department of the Government of Kerala in Alappuzha Municipality. The program created hierarchical community groups of urban poor women identified through objective parameters and empowered the groups to take up community based action in various sectors. This was an instant success and was extended to the other urban areas in the State. In 1994, the Government implemented a very ambitious replication of the program in the whole of Malappuram District including the rural areas.
The following are the community structures suggested for the rural side:
- Kudumbashree Ayalkoottam (NHG)
- Kudumbashree Ward Samithy (ADS)
- Kudumbashree Panchayat Samithy (CDS)
The paradigm shift in the approach is that any women who is residing in the Grama Panchayat can become a member of the Kudumbashree Ayalkoottam irrespective of the fact that she belong to a below poverty line (BPL) Family. Since this aspect gives an opening for the APL families to enter into the community structures envisaged by Kudumbashree, it is further ensured that majority of the office bearers should belong to BPL families. These structures give added importance to women empowerment both social and economic.
The action plan charted out for Kudumbashree is: -
- Formation of women collectives.
The poor women from families identified will be organised into Neighbourhood Groups (NHG) representing 15 to 40 families. A five-member team elected from the NHGs will be the cutting edge of the programme. NHGs will be federated democratically into Area Development Societies (ADS) at the Panchayat/Municipality Ward level and then into Community Development Societies (CDS) at the Panchayat/Municipal level. Their organizational structures will provide opportunities for collective public action.
- More information/training.
Weekly meetings of NHGs, sharing of experiences, discussions, organised/unorganized trainings etc., will broaden their outlook on better health, better education, better social and economic status.
- Skill upgradation training.
To facilitate economic development, suitable skill upgradation trainings will be given to women.
- Thrift - credit operations and 24 hour banking system.
Enabling women to realize their latent potential, strengthening them through self-help are the main objectives of Kudumbashree. Small savings generated at the families are pooled at various levels as thrift and used to attract credit from banks, which will operate as 24-hour bank for the poor, acting as a sub-system of the formal banks.
- Better living conditions - Infrastructural facilities.
The needs identified at NHG level are shaped as micro plans which are integrated into mini plans at ADS level and action plan at CDS level. This will be the anti-poverty sub plan of the local body and this will facilitate convergent delivery of Government programmes meant for the poor. Rather than the traditional system of heavily subsidized approach, Kudumbashree promote self-help approach for building houses, latrines, access to drinking water, sanitary facilities etc., availing the minimum support from Government. Common infrastructural facilities in the community strengthens them further.
- Micro-enterprises for sustainable economic development.
Providing skill upgradation trainings, self-employment opportunities and infrastructural development through wage employment schemes are the preparing grounds for further development of successful micro enterprises. Kudumbashree is bent on giving necessary resource support and facilitate forward/backward linkages etc., to promote micro-entrepreneurship among poor women.
- Power to the people especially the poor women.
The skill for identification of needs, fixing priorities, availing resources, bridging gap between needs and resources in a cost effective manner etc., are taught to the poor women groups in various phases. In the decentralization of power to the local bodies and common man, Kudumbashree can act as a healthy sub-system facilitating participation of poor women in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the programme.
- Leadership - decision making power.
Interaction in women collectives will help them to have a better understanding, which will lead to the emergence of leadership. This will help to ensure efficient women leadership to elected governments in future.
- The ultimate goal.
Reaching out family through women, and community through family, is the ultimate target of Kudumbashree.
Informal banking system
The three-tier community based CDS system, envisaged for poverty alleviation in Kudumbashree approach, will take up the informal banking responsibility also.The poor women should be able to approach the informal banks whenever necessity occurs. The doors of the banks should be open for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. The informal banks are formed with the active involvement of every member belonging to the Self Help Group. An Informal Bank doesn't need an office building, furniture and other paraphernalia we normally relate with a formal bank.
The strength of an informal bank is the intimate relationship between the members of the Self Help Group. The members know each others potentials weaknesses and problems. The members can deposit even trifle amount in the thrift scheme of the banks. Informal bank always tried to encourage saving habit among poor women. An informal bank can provide collateral free loans with the terms and conditions decided by the group. The Self Help Group behind the informal bank is free to fix market driven rates of interest for advances. Every operation of an informal bank takes place in the group level, including depositing of thrift amounts and sanctioning of thrift loans. The groups itself decides the eligibility of a member to get assistance from the bank after discussions and assessment of the need and repayment capacity.
The very existence of an Informal Bank brings about the homogeneity and affinity among members of the poor. Thrift savings of the members serve as the main bondage among members. The bank promote regularity in savings and assures sufficient frequency for group meetings. The informal banks will instill collective decision-making capability among the poor women. This sublime quality will be of great assistance to them for their fight against poverty and their participation in planning process and economic development activities. Informal banks will slowly do away with the subsidy syndrome prevailing in the lowest stratum of the society. The poor women will begin to enjoy the unique pleasure of doing things with their own money. The financial empowerment of women achieved through thrift and bank accessibility will improve their status in their own families and society. Naturally, their confidence will increase. Above all Informal Banks provide loans to the poor women at their own doorsteps without any hassle.
Once the informal banks of the NHGs, ADSs and CDS reach a certain level of maturity, they can grant loans to the members for genuine needs. Poor need financial assistance for several purposes, falling under four major categories.
Kudumbashree views Micro Enterprise development as an important tool for poverty reduction. When the concept of developing enterprises by poor women was planned in 1999, the response from various stakeholders including banks was far from encouraging. The previous experience of failures in group enterprises under various government programmes, perceived lack of entrepreneual abilities of poor and apathy of banks in associating with ventures of the poor were the prime reasons for this unfavourable environment.
But the most crucial factor was the lack of any successful enterprises model, which was worth emulating. The task for Kudumbashree was simple and challenging, to create a model for enterprise development. Kudumbashree went about creating a model, and the results are for everyone to see. 18969 enterprises across the state covering urban and rural areas, ranging from “traditional” enterprises like Goat rearing and Dairy, Catering units, Multi Purpose job clubs, Health care enterprises, Computer hardware and data entry units, innovative enterprises like Clean Kerala Business in solid waste collection are a testimony to the resolve of women to succeed in enterprises.
The definition of Micro Enterprise according to Kudumbashree is that, any enterprise that has:
- Investment ranging from Rs 5000 to Rs 2.5 lakhs
- Turnover ranging from over of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakhs.
- Potential to generate a net income of at least Rs 1,500 per member per month.
- Fully owned, managed and operated by members themselves.
There are some common features in the funding of the various enterprise programmes. All Kudumbashree enterprises are bank linked and a minimum of 50 % of the project cost has to be through bank loans. The subsidy component is limited to 50% of the total project cost and the entrepreneurs’ share is to the tune of 5% of the total project cost.
The emphasis in the Kudumbashree enterprise programme was to encourage innovative business ideas rather than on the “tried and tested” ones. A simple and practical way for identifying enterprises was devised; any idea that could solve a problem existing in the society (Problem Solving), fill the gap that existed (Gap Filling) or cater to new opportunity (Emerging Opportunities) was converted into an enterprise. The fact that most of the entrepreneurs were first generation entrepreneurs from their families was kept in mind while implementing the RME programme. The micro enterprise development was seen as an emerging process, which will start with low capital low risk and low profit in the initial stage that will gain momentum and later scale up to greater capital, risk and profit.
Milestones at a glance
In contrast with the previous poverty eradication programmes there are no specific financial and physical targets set for Kudumbashree. Kudumbashree practices a process approach and not a project approach. Milestones of the Mission, at a glance, are as follows:-.
- The largest women movement in Asia with a membership of 36 lakhs representing equal number of families.
- 36 lakh poor families brought under the community based organisations (CBO)s consisting of 1.87 lakh Neighbourhood Groups (NHG), 17,000 Area Development Societies (ADSs) and 1,058 Community Development Societies (CDSs)- rural & urban.
- mobilised a sum of Rs. 1,105 crores as thrift and disbursed loans amounting to Rs.2,818 crores to the members of Neighbourhood Groups.
- 1,14,761 NHGs graded under Linkage Banking Programme, out of which 96,330 NHGs linked with banks and an amount of Rs.645 crores mobilised as credit.
- 25,050 individual enterprises and 1,,757 group (with minimum 10 members) enterprises of women developed in urban areas.
- 1,430 individual enterprises and 4,578 group (with minimum 10 members) enterprises of poor women formed in rural areas.
- 2,55,270 families participated in lease land farming and 63,560 acres (257.2 km2) of land brought under cultivation.
- 376 group enterprises and 319 individual enterprises started under the Special Employment Programme (Yuvashree).
- Ashraya-Destitute identification and Rehabilitation Project implemented in 745 Local Self Governments and 58,389 destitutes identified.
- 44,586 houses constructed under the Bhavanashree housing loan scheme (without subsidy) for the poor in rural areas.
- 235 enterprneur groups (Thelima) formed for the municipal solid waste management in urban areas.
- ‘Buds’-10 special schools for physically and mentally challenged children set up under the leadership of the Local Self Government.
- 45,262 Balasabhas (Children’s) Neighbourhood Groups) with 7.9 lakh children formed in urban and rural areas.
Program Implementation Team
The activities of Kudumbashree mission is controlled by a state level office, headed by an IAS officer and at district level a District Mission Team . At the panchayath level a charge officer is given the responsibility of the administration along with the CDS governing committee. The officials are government employees working on deputation with the mission. Besides, part time consultants and experts are also engaged for specific tasks. The executive directors of Kudumbashree 1. Shri James Vargehes IAS -The first Executive Director and served the organisation from 1997-1998 2. Shri.T.K Jose IAS- He was the main person behind the growth of Kudumbashree. He developed a team of passionate employees to work in the mission and started innovative programs like ashraya ( destitute rehabilitation project), Bhavanshree (Microhousing), Vidyashree (IT@School units), Balasabha(Forum for children), Clean Kerala Campaign(Collection and disposal of Solid waste), Clean Destination campaign(Maintenance of tourist destinations by Kudumbashree workers) and numerous micro enterprises -ranging from computer to coconut oil production and food items to Mini bus service. One major development was the tie up with the state Social Welfare Department to supply special nutritional supplements to the children in Anganwadis - under the name -Nutrimix- which has enabled thousands of rural women to manufacture and supply the nutritional supplement to their children all across the state. He was given the India vision Man of the Year award in 2007. Kudumbashree received most of the national and international recognitions during his tenure. 3. Smt. Sharada Muralidharan- Current executive director.
Awards for Kudumbashree
Smt. Sarada Muraleedharan receiving EMPI – Indian Express Indian Innovation Gold Trophy from Delhi Chief Minister Smt. Sheela Dikshit.
Name of Award
‘We the people’ award – UN
UNCHS –100 Best Innovations
CAPAM – International Innovations Gold Medal
UN Habitat 2002 Practices Global 100 list
Dubai International Award -Finalist
UNDP – One among the 15 best practices in India
India Innovation Award for the Social Innovations
Prepared by biju p r,assistant professor in political science,govt brennen college,thalassery,kerala,india.