Kudumbasree, which uplifted women, is celebrating 14th anniversary

Kudumbasree poverty eradication mission, having touched the lives of nearly four million women in the state, continues to amaze planners and academics.

As the innovative state mission enters its 15th year, the mosaic of its success is made up of individuals like Saajitha Bhasheer and Mallika Haridas; Mary Xavier and Sheriffa Sheikh, who have, against heavy odds, turned out to be resourceful entrepreneurs and great forces of change in the communities they lead.

They spoke to The Hindu on the sidelines of a meeting of Kudumbasree leaders here on Tuesday in preparation for the anniversary celebrations that culminate here on October 1.

“I can’t imagine myself standing here today if it was not for the Kudumasree mission,” says Saajitha Basheer with a smile that sums up the story of Kudubmasree.

As chairperson of the Community Development Society (CDS) under the Kudumbasree mission in Maradu, she says her women friends in various neighbourhood groups have finalised plans for investments worth Rs. 71 lakh this year in ventures that include a new city bus service and an air-conditioned thattukada in the city.

Her counterpart from Pallarimangalam, Sheriffa Sheikh, says she came back from the brink of despair to a new life. The new life has not been wasted, she says, thanks to the Kudumbasree mission which opened up a highway when all other roads slammed shut before her.

Mary Xavier, chairperson of the CDS in Kochi East, still cannot believe that she attended the World Trade Fair in Shanghai, China, in 2010 as a toy-maker under the Kudumbasree banner. She is today a well-known toy-maker, her stall being a regular fixture at the India International Trade Fair in New Delhi every winter.

Mallika Haridas, CDS chairperson, Pothanikkad, whose experiences are recounted in one of the forthcoming books on Kudumbasree success, says her feelings cannot be confined to a book. It has been a life-changing experience being part of the Kudumbasree mission, she says.

“Kudumbasree has given me courage to stand up and speak for myself; to tackle problems of any sort in my neighbourhood and it has financially empowered me,” says Ms. Basheer, who is behind the all-women team that owns a bus that is in the city service.

When the future looked so bleak with a mountain of family problems ahead, Ms. Sheikh decided to climb it, thanks to a helping hand from Kudumbasree. She heads 120 neighbourhood groups in Pallarimangalam, which are engaged in farming over more than 100 acres.

Ms. Sheikh says she was instrumental in putting together a slew of programmes that include building houses for 25 poor families; repairing another 25 houses and providing frequent help to others who were homeless.

“It is not money alone that matters. There is enough money to go around,” she says pointing to a thrift fund collection of Rs. 58 lakh under the CDS. Linkage banking has seen an offtake of Rs. 2.38 crore in loans.

The CDS headed by Ms. Xavier has seen a thrift fund collection of Rs. 80,98,21 and the recently started lending programme has seen linkage banking worth Rs. 28 lakh. She says that being predominantly an urban area, Joint Liability Groups for farming activities under the CDS had not taken firm roots.

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