Kerala

At 25, Kudumbashree gears up to face new challenges

The biggest achievement of Kudumbashree has been drawing women out of households into the public sphere and building their individual capabilities.

The biggest achievement of Kudumbashree has been drawing women out of households into the public sphere and building their individual capabilities. | Photo Credit: TH

When Prasanna Kumari S. of Kottukal in the capital district became part of the Kudumbashree network, the focus was mostly on thrift and credit activities.

In the two decades since, she has twice become chairperson of the Kudumbashree’s Kottukal community development society (CDS).

Prasanna Kumari’s journey, in a way, represents the development trajectory of the Kudumbashree, said to be the largest women’s organisational network in the world. The mission’s aim has evolved from poverty alleviation to empowerment of women.

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Today, Kudumbashree’s achievements have been lauded, and widely studied. The path-breaking model has been emulated in other States, and even been adapted to suit other countries.

As Kudumbashree embarks on its silver jubilee celebrations with year-long programmes, the organisation’s future plans, the challenges ahead, and how it intends to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world become all the more significant.

Keeping the momentum

Kudumbashree Executive Director P.I. Sreevidya says the network has not only survived but kept the momentum going the past 24 years. “It’s no mean feat that groups of 20 women assemble in a house every week, year after year. I’ve met women who are more than 80 years old, and they remain passionate about Kudumbashree,” she says.

Mridul Eapen, former member of the State Planning Board, says the biggest achievement of Kudumbashree has been drawing women out of households into the public sphere and building their individual capabilities.

Over the years, Kudumbashree women have been involved in local-level planning for employment generation, poverty reduction, and social justice. The largescale mobilisation of women in community activities during the floods and the pandemic, be it community kitchens, assistance to COVID-19 affected people, or mask manufacture; and the election of 7,071 Kudumbashree members among the 21,854 elected representatives in the 2020 local body elections are all examples of the women building on their strengths.

“There is no doubt Kudumbasree has empowered women. They are more self-confident, can negotiate with people...with bankers, government departments, and bureaucrats. They can come to public meetings and speak,” says Dr. Eapen.

New sectors

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Pointing out that the women are now taking to newer sectors such as food processing, construction units, e-Seva centres, catering units and housekeeping, Ms. Sreevidya said efforts were on to equip young educated women in Kudumbashree auxiliary groups with the skills for new-generation livelihood opportunities by coordinating with other government missions such as K-DISC, Startup Mission, and Knowledge Economy Mission.

Besides livelihood, gender is a core issue that Kudumbashree will continue to concentrate on. The community network can do a lot to address challenges such as dowry and domestic violence that plague Kerala society, she says.

Dr. Eapen feels that Kudumbasree could try to democratise the household by sensitising all members to issues of gender. “This will reduce violence, enable women to exercise their choices and feel empowered and, importantly, lead to better parenting. The Kudumbashree, together with Jagrata Samitis, is very well-positioned to address gender based violence,” she says.

Those who have spent long years in the organisation stress the need for strengthening the network and extending more support for vulnerable groups like transgenders, the elderly, differently abled children, and destitute women.


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Printable version | Jun 2, 2022 10:59:29 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/at-25-kudumbasree-gears-up-to-face-new-challenges/article65419912.ece