Kudumbashree, the Kerala State Poverty Eradication Mission was launched on 17th May 1998 inaugurated by the Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Mission aims to eradicate absolute poverty within a definite time frame of 10 years under the leadership of Local Self Governments formed and empowered by the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution of India. The Mission launched by the State Government with the active support of Government of India and NABARD has adopted a different methodology in addressing poverty by organizing the poor in to community-based organizations. The Mission follows a process approach rather than a project approach.
Kudumbashree, a community organization of Neighborhood Groups (NHGs) of women in Kerala, has been recognized as an effective strategy for the empowerment of women in rural as well as urban areas: bringing women together from all spheres of life to fight for their rights or for empowerment. The overall empowerment of women is closely linked to economic empowerment. Women through these NHGs work on a range of issues such as health, nutrition, agriculture, etc. besides income generation activities and seeking micro credit.
Kudumbashree differs from conventional programmes in that it perceives poverty not just as the deprivation of money, but also as the deprivation of basic rights. The poor need to find a collective voice to help claim these rights.
Kudumbashree was conceived as a joint programme of the Government of Kerala and Nabard implemented through Community Development Societies (CDSs) of Poor Women, serving as the community wing of Local Governments. Kudumbashree is formally registered as the "State Poverty Eradication Mission" (SPEM), a society registered under the Travancore Kochi Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Act 1955. It has a governing body chaired by the State Minister of LSG. There is a state mission with a field officer in each district. This official structure supports and facilitates the activities of the community network across the state. Kudumbashree differs from conventional programmes in that it perceives poverty not just as the deprivation of money, but also as the deprivation of basic rights. The poor need to find a collective voice to help claim these rights.
The grassroots of Kudumbashree are Neighbourhood Groups (NHG in short) that send representatives to the ward level Area Development Societies (ADS). The ADS sends its representatives to the Community Development Society (CDS), which completes the unique three-tier structure of Kudumbashree. Today, there are 2.77 lakhs NHGs, over 19,854 ADSs and 1073 CDSs in Kudumbashree.
It is this network that brings women to the Grama Sabhas and helps them bring the needs of the poor to the attention of the local governments. The Community Development Societies are also very active in Government programmes and play significant roles in development activities ranging from socio-economic surveys and enterprise development to community management and social audit.
Though its efforts to engage women in civil society in development issues and opportunities, Kudumbashree in association with the local self government of Kerala is charting out new meaning and possibilities for local economic development and citizen centric governance.
There are two distinguishing characteristics to Kudumbashree which set it apart from the usual SHG model of empowerment. These are,
1.The universality of reach – from its very inception Kudumbashree has attempted to bring every poor woman in the state within its fold, as a consequence of which today Kudumbashree is present in every village panchayat and municipality, and in nearly every ward, colony and hamlet. The sheer spread is mind boggling, and it is only because the local community of women drive the system that it has managed to persevere.
2.The scope of community interface in local governance – the functioning of Kudumbashree is tied up to the development initiatives of the local government be it for social infrastructure, welfare or right based interventions or for employmentgeneration. From food security to health insurance, from housing to enterprise development, from the national wage employment programme to the jagratha samiti, every development experience depends on Kudumbashree to provide the community interface.
It is using these opportunities that Kudumbashree strives to convert a microfinance led financial security model into a more comprehensive model of local economic development.
THE MISSION STATEMENT
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.
Kudumbashree strives to develop the model of a micro finance led financial security process into a more comprehensive model of local economic development under the aegis of local governments. This would hopefully sustain the transformation of the local governance agenda from welfare to entitlement. Such a transformation does not come about easily and requires rewriting established administrative and development practices
It requires the community acquiring voice and being heard. It requires institutionalizing processes that allow for participation and meaningful contribution. And when we speak of community we speak of the people for whom government is a palpable entity influencing the quality of their lives, as well as of the people on the periphery, both social and physical, for whom manifold deprivations have snuffed out hope of change.
We speak of the women who are finding, through collective endeavours, the stepping stones leading from participation to citizenship in its truest sense. It is through the realization of citizenship that Kudumbashree would be able to significantly address issues of equity and justice.
Various forms of microfinance practices have been in existence in Kerala from early days.
When the concept of Self Help Group was introduced in Kerala in the 1980s, it was quick to gather momentum.
In the early nineties a community led poverty identification format was developed as part of the Alappuzha UBSP Programme.
By this time the NABARD promoted SHG, linkage banking programme had established itself as a viable microfinance model.
In 1994, the CBNP project of Malappuram tried to assimilate these experiences and develop a women based community structure for service delivery of government programmes.
The 73rd & 74th constitutional amendments strengthened PRIs and ULBs.
Shortly afterwards, the People's Plan Campaign for decentralised Governance created strong local self governments (Panchayaths and Municipalities) in the State.
Kudumbashree was launched in 1998 as a community network that would work in tandem with local self governments for poverty eradication and women empowerment.
It is the proximity of the CBO with local governments that makes Kudumbashree unique. Kudumbashree functions as the community voice of the LSG – in particular the voice of the economically and socially weak, and of women. Most of the plan interventions of grama panchayaths and urban local governments in the areas of poverty reduction and women’s development use the CDS network as agency especially in identification and selection of beneficiary, homing in on individual and collective needs, and for community outreach. Kudumbashree is at the heart of many action research models developed by local governments, including the LSG’s Citizen’s Charter's. Any community intervention coordinated by the LSG for say, destitute rehabilitation, universalizing Take Home Ration, introducing computer education in school, uses the Kudumbashree network. The first ever community validation of the BPL list was effected with the participation of Kudumbashree. So too innumerable other data generation exercises for local governments. The CDS network also assures that gender issues keep cropping up in the local development agenda and that the grama sabha retains its space for bringing community voices onto a common development platform.
Kudumbashree and the 12th Five Year Plan
The guidelines for the formulation of the 12th 5 Year Plan by local governments highlights agricultural production, local economic development, poverty eradication and social equity as core objectives. The guidelines stipulate formation of sub plants for poverty eradication, local economic development, women’s development and local governance, among others. All these are significant areas of interface of the CDS with the local government. Women of the CDS are members of the working groups formed under the aegis of LSGS for project preparation. The Kudumbashree state mission had launched an extensive campaign for capacitation of the women in Kudumbashree to meaningfully intercede in the decentralized planning process so as to focus on poverty concerns ranging from basic infrastructure to improved service delivery, and to bring their experiential knowledge of management of micro enterprises to demand intervention strategies that go beyond subsidy support and general trainings. The governance plans now provide an opportunity for factoring community monitoring into local government programmes. Through their interventions in the grama sabhas and sectoral working groups for plan formulation, the women of Kudumbashree can help put the core objective of the 12th 5 Year Plan at the heart of the development debate.