Shinija N.V. of Pattiam grama panchayat in Kannur joined the Kudumbashree 18 years ago. She was soon made secretary of her neighbourhood self-help group. She rose through the ranks to become the Kudumbashree area development society (ADS) secretary and then community development society (CDS) member.
In 2010, Shinija contested the local body elections, won, and went on to become the development standing committee chairperson. Ten years later, she is standing for the elections again - from the 12th ward of the panchayat.
Like Shinija, 16,864 other Kudumbashree women are eagerly awaiting the results of the local body elections on Wednesday. Kudumbashree women, in fact, form a good chunk of the 36,305 women candidates (46.5%) in the fray.
An increasing number of women from Kudumbashree are coming forward to participate in grassroots governance since the State reserved 50% of the seats in local bodies for women. In 2015, 15,863 Kudumbashree women contested the elections, and of them 7,376 won (46.5%).
In Kannur itself, 23 CDS chairpersons are in the fray this time, not to mention hundreds of other Kudumbashree women.
Kudumbashree Executive Director Harikishore S. says Kudumbashree women’s increasing representation in governance is a recognition for their work, commitment, and competence. No longer do people think that women are suited only for Kudumbashree; they recognise that these women can do better. Political parties too acknowledge this and field them as candidates.
It is also indicative of women empowerment, he says. “Women come to leadership positions in the Kudumbashree network and from there move to broader leadership roles, motivating many others in the process.”
Planning Board member Mridul Eapen says the Kudumbashree three-tier network gives the women lots of exposure. For one, they are much more able to understand local problems and collective needs of the people. The organisational abilities they pick up while in Kudumbashree — how to work in a group, accommodate various viewpoints, take decisions, and keep the team together — give them confidence and help them perform effectively. If they do good work in their neighbourhood, it gives them social capital that puts them in an advantageous position while governing at the local level.