Poverty eradication through networking of women’s groups
Kuttiyamma maintains a garden in front of her house. Red roses and lilies bloom there. Her life and status have changed since she shifted to her newly constructed home in Ayyappan Koil Panchayath in Idukkki district of Kerala. She is no more a destitute who lives on charity.
Today there are millions like Kuttiyamma who can happily say that they are secure and prosperous. Thanks to “Kudumbashree”, one of the largest women empowering projects in the country.
In a country where the poor become poorer as years and decades take a toll, various programmes have been initiated for the eradication of poverty. But despite all the initiatives, there was no significant achievement in the poverty scenario in the country. The poor remained as poor.
In the post independence era there is no dearth of programmes and projects to tackle the poverty situation prevailing in the country. But all the programmes were supply driven and not need based and demand driven. The magnitude and causes of poverty were not taken into account. The perception of poverty itself was ambiguous and vague. The only factor that based for determining poverty was income. That too based on the purchasing capacity of a family to procure food. The aspirations of the poor, the basic needs of the poor, the levels of deprivations of the poor were not considered and someone else takes decision on his entitlement. Kudumbashree overcame all these predicaments by sensitizing women from the poor families about their role in poverty eradication. It led to a reawakening of the poor women in their dreams, aspirations, needs and actions that made a great difference in fighting poverty in the neighbourhood.
Kudumbashree was launched in 1998 and 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.
The program tackled the multiple dimensions of poverty by using a 9 point index to identify the poor families. Under this poverty reduction mission approach poor families have been mobilized into a three tier Community Based Organisation (CBO) which encompasses 3.29 million families.
The three networked tiers are:
The Neighbourhood Group at grassroots level. (NHG) – (1.51 lakh NHGs)
The second tier is Area Development Society (ADS) – (1425), which is formed at ward level by federating 8 to 10 NHGs.
At the Panchayat level a Community Development Society (CDS), a registered body under the Charitable Societies Act is formed by federating various ADS. – (1050)
The women from poor families attend the weekly meetings ( on Saturdays) of the NHGs, discuss their problems, mobilize thrift , provide need based credit , maintains accounts, venture into small enterprises and initiate actions against social evils. Through the involvement in this process, the women from poor families learn new lessons to tackle the multiple dimensions of poverty and this learning process is contributing to higher empowerment levels.
WOMEN EMPOWERMENT – A BLESSING:
Kudumbashree has proved time and again- Gone are the days when the Maid of Orleans was burned at the stake or the confinement within four walls encouraged the Sati, Jauhar or the Purdah system. What couldn’t be achieved through years of planning and several years of mere scrutinizing has been achieved today by these women who dared to dream.
In recent years there has been an explicit move to increase women participation in every field. Be it politics, health, education, agriculture. The Government of India declared 2001 as the Year of Women's Empowerment.. The National Policy for The Empowerment of Women was passed in 2001. In 2010 March 9, one day after International Women's day, Rajyasabha passed Women's Reservation Bill, ensuring 33% reservation to women in Parliament and state legislative bodies.
Kudumbashree too has made its mark everywhere through their gender learning programmes, training in coconut tree climbing, ( its not explicitly a man’s job after all!) , cultivation of turmeric and much , much more.
INNOVATION AT ITS BEST:
Kudumbashree is innovative and differs from conventional programmes. 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’s uniqueness and the impact it created in the community are a class apart. It generated income for the families in communities, set up micro- enterprises and sanctioned loans. Houses, latrines were constructed, shelters were upgraded. Destitute families were targeted for food, health housing, pension, education. The numbers are simply appalling!
Kudumbashree continues its journey with women who changed their destiny with their determination and iron will. Recently The Kerala Tourism Department and Kudumbashree Mission have tied up to develop Kovalam Tourist Village at Vellar in the district as a top destination for foreign as well as domestic tourists.
In 2010 alone, 11,773 women Kudumbashree candidates contested panchayath elections and 5,485 of them won becoming elected representatives in various tiers of local self government.
In a global recognition to Kerala’s neighbourhood initiative, Kudumbashree got a rare invitation from the conference of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) to present its women empowerment model.the showcasing of the movement at the meet, held at Cardiff in UK from March 15 to 18, won huge admiration from the Commonwealth countries as an emerging role model space of women in local economic development.
What Kudumbashree achieved over the years should be source of inspiration for women not only in India but all over the world. Passing various laws and bills may not bring many significant changes in the lives of people. However it is the power to dare to dream that makes all the difference, it is the courage to implement that breaks barriers.