Kudumbashree Mission, Kerala
The word ‘Kudumbashree’ means prosperity of the family, which aptly signifies the goal of this woman-oriented, community-based, State Poverty Eradication Mission of Government of Kerala. The mission aims at empowering women through the formation of self-help groups and by encouraging their entrepreneurial or other activities on a wide range. The purpose is to ensure that women no longer have to sustain themselves relying on public assistance. Rather, they should emerge as active leaders and involve themselves in development initiatives. The Kudumbashree project for poverty reduction was launched on 17th May 1998.
The programme has 37 lakh members and has been built around the three vital components of micro credit, entrepreneurship and empowerment. Today, this initiative has succeeded in addressing the basic needs of the not-so-privileged women, and thus providing them with a life of dignity and security for the future.
Kerala is such a state that boasts of a number of impressive accomplishments in the field of women empowerment and the balance of gender status. However, there are certain other statistics that serve as a paradox to Kerala’s development model. There exists a sharp gender division of labour that has resulted in the concentration of women in sectors such as agricultural labour, cottage and traditional industries, etc. which are not only low-paying but are also unorganized sectors. Also, the trade union movements have not been able to translate the cause of ‘equal work equal pay’ into reality and gender discrimination is prevalent in every work place.This been impeding the improvement in the status of women. Besides, violence against women and sexual harassment cases are quite rampant in the state. Another irony is that despite the general progressive political environment in Kerala, the presence of women in various leadership levels is rare.
Amongst the many objectives of the mission are empowering the poor women to improve the productivity by organizing them into CBOs, ensuring the basic amenities, better health and nutrition, to give 5 yrs. of primary education to all children, enabling the poor to participate in the decentralization process, improving their incomes by means of improved skills and investment for self-employment etc. The mission has undertaken several auxiliary objectives which are to be pursued methodically in order to achieve the specific objectives.
The action plan and strategies comprise of organization of neighborhood groups (NHG) representing 15-40 families, skill upgradation training, providing thrift-credit operations and 24-hour banking system, better infrastructural facilities for improved living, micro-enterprises to lend necessary resource support, etc. It is heartening to give a look at some of the various milestones that this project has chartered on its journey:
a. It is the largest women’s movement in Asia with a membership of 36 lacs.
b. 25,050 individual enterprises and 1,757 group enterprises of poor women developed in urban areas.
c. 1,430 individual enterprises and 4,578 group enterprises of poor women in rural areas.
d. 2,55,270 families participated in lease land farming and 63,560 acres of land brought under cultivation.
e. 376 group enterprises and 319 individual enterprises started under the Special Employment Programme (Yuvashree).
It has also won quite a few awards such as ‘We, the People’ award from the UN, the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration, India Innovation Award for the Social Innovations etc. It has set a brilliant example for women, individually and collectively, and will surely continue to inspire many lives for years to come.