KOLLAM: From garbage collection to supermarket management, a good lot of women in Kollam district are today engaged in a big endeavour: erasing the below poverty line (BPL) label from society. Their mission: economic empowerment through women empowerment. Their watchword: dignity of labour. Their flagship: Kudumbasree, an endeavour by the State government to reach out to families and the community through women. Their goal: poverty eradication.
The mission has already covered 1.87 lakh out of 1.93 lakh BPL families in the district through 12,330 neighbourhood groups. Their thrift deposits from 71 grama panchayats in the district is Rs.91.71 crore and the internal lending, Rs.161 crore.
One of the biggest beneficiary groups is women from the coastal area. In abject poverty, decent earnings and savings were a dream for them. But they are realising the dream now.
‘Thanima’ is a group of women in the coastal Shakthikulangara area who have joined hands to prove that they are unique. Once they were unemployed and idled away their time; now they are busy entrepreneurs making money. Quality fish pickle is their prime product. Besides earning a handsome monthly income, each member of the group is able to repay Rs.1,000 a month towards their bank loans. According to Merlin James, president of the group, more than the monetary returns, it is the mental satisfaction that matters. And more and more women are drawn towards the Kudumbasree magic.
Nutrient mix production is another thriving occupation many women in the district have taken up. There are 12 such units with 15 women in each in the district. Their nutrimix products are purchased by the respective block panchayats and distributed to anganwadis through the Integrated Child Development Services. According to L.P. Chithar, District Kudumbasree Mission (DKM) coordinator, on an average each member engaged in the activity earns Rs.4,000 a month and there are a couple of units where the members earn more than Rs.8,000 a month.
These units are performing so well that two have been able to purchase own buildings. These are Thejus Nutrimix at Elampalloor and Kalpatharu Nutrimix at Mylakkad. S. Ambili, president of the group operating Thejus Nutrimix, said that the Kudumbasree Mission provided a ‘wonderful means of living’ to 15 of them. The units sell 20,000 kg at the rate of Rs.40 a kg every month. Ms. Ambili said the DKM is the prime cause for this transformation. Unemployed earlier, each one of them now earn more than Rs.8,000 a month, repay their bank loans without default and have handsome thrift deposits.
At Edapallikotta, 20 women from a Kudumbasree unit are the owners and employees of Theeramaithri Super Market. Formerly unemployed, now they are skilled purchase managers and talented marketing executives.
At Thevalakara, a catering unit, named Quality Catering, run by Kudumbasree women, has already earned a reputation in the district.
In the Punalur municipal area, there are two units with 10 women each engaged in garbage collection and they earn more than Rs.3,000 each a month. The DKM plans to start such an endeavour in all 52 divisions of Kollam Corporation.
At Aryankavu, with Rs.1 lakh as incentive, a group will shortly be harvesting a crop of 10,000 banana bunches under lease land farming.