Kudumbashree: A Comprehensive Social Innovation for Women Empowerment

Kudumbashree: A Comprehensive Social Innovation for Women Empowerment

Chacko Jose P. (Sacred Heart College, Chalakudy, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2819-8.ch024
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Kudumbashree, established in Kerala, India in the year of 1998 was perceived not merely as one SHG-based women empowerment programme in the narrow sense, but as a poverty eradication mission of Kerala. Kudumbashree is a multifaceted programme focusing primarily on microfinance and micro-enterprise development, but at the same time integrally linked to local self-government institutions. Kudumbashree enhances the civic participation in the development process in a grass root level, particularly, deepen democracy, strengthen social capital, facilitate efficiency sustained growth and gender mainstreaming. Kudumbashree has succeeded to empower women by boosting women's sense of self-worth; right to have and to determine choices; right to have access to opportunities and resources; right to have the power to control their own lives, both within and outside the home; and ability to influence the direction of social change to create a more just, social and economic order.
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The state of Kerala in India is well-known for the ‘Kerala Model Development’ which is reflected in its high Human Development Index (HDI)of 0.77 compared to the all India score of 0.64 (SBI, 2019). But paradoxically, Kerala also has the highest rate of unemployment in India and resultantly poverty as well. As per the national statistics, the unemployment rate of Kerala is 11.40% and the national average is only 6% (GOI, 2019). According to Rangarajan Committee report (2014), the proportion of poor in Kerala is 11.3 percent (7.3 percent in rural areas and 15.3 percent in urban areas). The problem of poverty is multi- dimensional and the benefits of various Government policies on poverty eradication have bypassed certain sections of the society. Formal financial institutions were unable to fulfill the financial needs of the poor, related to their consumption expenditure, asset creation, and self-employment activities due to the fear of non- payment of debts, increasing over dues and recovery of loans through forced repayment. This made the poor people to depend on non- formal sources (Basheer, 2018; Pat, 2005).

Sen (1983; 1985) has elaborated, there is a great need to consider the quality of human resources, their capabilities and functioning in any poverty conceptualization. According to him, poverty is capability deprivation. Capability refers to the freedom one has to choose from a range of functioning, which means achieving what one wants to do or be. Poverty in this perspective would mean absence of elementary capabilities. The basic question in poverty reduction is one of expansion of elementary capabilities, namely, education, health care, employment, gender equity and women empowerment and provision for social and economic security.

The Government of Kerala has been planning a mechanism for creation of mass employment, especially for women with the objective of eradicating poverty. The Self Help Group (SHG) led employment generation program, especially with focus on women was found to be suitable to Kerala considering the high literacy of women, even in rural Kerala. This led to the formation of Kudumbashree. In Malayalam, the local language of Kerala, ‘Kudumbashree’ means ‘prosperity of the family’. Kudumbashree today helps enjoy the economic opportunities by a good number of the poor women folks in rural and urban Kerala (Das, 2017; John, 2009). Kudumbashree differs from conventional programmes in that it perceives poverty not just as the deprivation of money but also the deprivation of basic rights. The poor need to find a collective voice to claim these rights (Abraham, 2019).

The objective of the present chapter is to provide a descriptive examination of the activities and modes of functioning of Kudumbashree so that this SHG model based on women empowerment through poverty reduction / employment generation provides a model to the development experiments elsewhere in the world. The present chapter uses only secondary data for analysis. For the sake of authenticity, the study has relied on information from the official website of Kudumbashree State Mission, Kerala (http://www.kudumbashree.org/). Towards the end, this chapter also provides a critical analysis of the functioning of Kudumbashree.


Evolution Of Kudumbashree

During 1987-88 Community Development Societies (CDSs) system evolved from Urban Basic Services Program sponsored by UNICEF, Government of India and the Government of Kerala has implemented it in Ernakulum and Alappuzha districts of the state. The Kudumbashree mission for poverty eradication is the perfected form of the UBSP (Urban Basic Services for the Poor) rendered during the 7thand8thFive Year Plans for the development of slums in urban areas. During the same period the Government of Kerala and UNICEF initiated the Community-based Nutrition Program (CBNP) in Alappuzha, to improve the health and nutritional status of poor children and women. UNICEF survey identified nine non-income-based risk factors, viz; 1) Kutcha house 2) No access to safe drinking water 3) No access to sanitary latrine 4) Illiterate adult member in the family 5) Family having not more than one earning member 6) Family getting barely two meals a day or less 7) Presence of children below the age of five in the family 8) Alcoholic or drug addict in the family and 9) Scheduled caste or Scheduled tribe family. Any family with four or more of these identified risk factors is classified as ‘poor’.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Jagratha Samithi: Jagratha Samithi is translated as ‘Vigilance Committee’. Jagratha Samithis are committees formed at the level of local government in Kerala and were constituted on the initiative of the Kerala Women Commission. They are intended to help in reducing the distance between women in the villages and the services provided by various government agencies. It acts as a quasi-judicial mechanism at the Panchayat level to protect the rights of women and children.

Anganwadi: Anganwadi is a type of rural mother and childcare centre. They were started by the Government of India in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program to combat child hunger and malnutrition. The services provided by the Anganwadi are supplementary nutrition, non-formal pre-school education, growth monitoring, immunization monitoring, health check-ups and health and nutrition education classes. The main beneficiaries of the program are children below six years of age, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

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