Limited savings and lack of access to credit life make difficult for many poor people, particularly women in low-income countries, to become self-employed and to undertake productive employment and income-generating ventures (Khandker, 1998). Kudumbashree was launched by the Government of Kerala in 1998 to wipe out the absolute poverty from the state through community actions under the leadership of local self-governments. At present, the programme has covered 39.97 lakh members and its benefits get more than 50% of the households of Kerala, based on three critical components like micro credit, entrepreneurship and empowerment (Kudumbashree Annual Report, 2015). The Sustainable Livelihood (SL) is recognizing the diverse dimensions of poverty and strengthen the poor people for adopt to secure their development (UNDP, 2009). The micro-enterprises for women are a commonly used strategy for women empowerment (Ganle, J. K., Afriyie, K., & Segbefia, A. Y., 2015) and livelihood promotion. This article documents the provisions for women empowerment and sustainable livelihood through micro-enterprises developments of Kudumbashree project in Kerala.
Key words: Women empowerment, Micro-enterprises development, Sustainable livelihood, Kudumbashree in Kerala
Empowerment is “the expansion of people’s ability to make strategic life choices in context where this ability was previously denied to them” (Kabeer, 1999). Empowerment is a process and an outcome of women, it refers to the ability of women to make decisions and affect events around them, benefit from resources and opportunities, exercise control over their own lives and bodies, and have a voice in public life and decision-making, which results in increased autonomy and improved well-being (Malhotra & Schuler, 2005). Women empowerment as “a process whereby women become able to organize themselves to increase their own self-reliance, to assert their independent right to make choices and to control resources which will assist in challenging and eliminating their own subordination” (Keller & Mbewe, 1991). Kabeer (2001) stated that, the importance of empowering women through fostering their ability to challenge their contexts and make strategic choices of an environment where such choices were previously denied. Therefore, women empowerment is a critical development concern around the world, especially in developing countries. National and international initiatives have made effort to reduce the disparities among women, the empowerment goals are not yet completely realized globally. In India, women have acquired significant influence on social, economic and political institutions through emancipatory actions and empowerment movements (Handy and Kassam, 2006).
A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets, and activities required for a means of living. It is deemed sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities, assets, and activities both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base (UNDP, 2009). The essence of Sustainable Livelihood (SL) approaches lies in recognizing the diverse dimensions of poverty, and multiple strengthen that poor people adopt to secure their development. The Sustainable Livelihood (SL) approaches are a way of thinking about the objectives, scope, and priorities for development activities. It is based on evolving thinking about the way the poor and vulnerable lives and the importance of policies and institutions. The Sustainable Livelihood (SL) approaches to facilitate the identification of practical priorities to actions that are based on the views and interests of those concerned but they are not a panacea (UNDP, 2009).
Micro-enterprise development is an emerging process that will start with low capital, low risk and low profit at the initial stage, which will gain momentum and later switch on to low to medium capital and medium risk. In an advanced stage, it may even reach medium capital, medium risk and medium profit with appropriate technology, emerging technology or even with low technology. Micro-enterprises programmes have the potential to transform power relations and empower both men and women. In a well-run micro-enterprise, there is self-confidence developed among family members including women about their status and role in the family. Consequently, micro-enterprise has become a central component of community development programmes of many governments in the world. Kenneth & Seena (2012) observed that economic development of women leads to better live status in the family, educational, nutritional, and the health needs of the children were well satisfied. The economic independence through Kudumbashree improved the social participation in its members. The Kudumbashree NHG (Neighborhood Group) movement is supporting for social empowerment of poor women flock of Kerala.
Core Principles of a Sustainable Livelihood (SL) Approach (UNDP, 2009)
Kudumbashree: Historical Perspectives
The first spark of a women based participatory approach for poverty eradication came out in Alappuzha Municipality in Alappuzha district of Kerala in 1993, when the Community Development Society of the poor women came into being as part of the implementation of the Community Based Nutrition Programme (CBNP) and the Urban Basic Service Programme (UBSP) with the assistance of UNICEF. The seven wards were selected for the implementation of the programme (Raghavan, 2009).
The programme began with the organization of the poor women folks to form the groups. The poor high-risk families were identified to form the Neighborhood groups, based on the nine non economic indicators like occupation in temporary houses, no access to safe drinking water, no access to sanitary latrines, illiterate adult member in the family, not more than one earning member in the family, family getting barely two meals a day or less, children below five years in the family, ST/ST family, and alcoholic or drug addict in the family. Eighty-eight neighborhood groups were formed of women from such high-risk families and seven- ward level Area Development societies (ADS) were also formed from the grass root level NHGs and ADSs were federated to the town level Community Development Society (CDS).
The Participatory modeling under Community Development System brought the poor women in Alappuzha Municipality to the mainstream of the social life. They began to participate in the development process with greater enthusiasm. The NHGs were encouraged to meet as many times as possible. It provided them an opportunity to sit together and discuss their common problems to find out solutions. The poor women belonging to the high-risk families become empowered and seldom accept poverty as their destiny. They proved beyond any doubt that they could identify their own problems. They learned the meanings of ‘self-help’ and ‘self respect’. The united and empowered women fought against poverty (Raghavan, 2009).
The Malappuram District Model- The Continuum
The amazing success of the participatory system of poverty alleviation programme in Alappuzha Municipality of Kerala, in 1994, government decided to extend the scheme to the entire district of Malappuram, one of the backward districts in Kerala. The district of Malappuram has the highest fertility and infant mortality rates in Kerala. The government of Kerala , with the assistance of the UNICEF , chose the district of Malappuram to experiment with poverty alleviation programme called Community Based Nutrition Project and Poverty Alleviation Programme (CBNP &PAP) aiming at helping to reach out the unreached through community action. The strategy formed the Convergent Community Action and Self Help to enhance the capacity of the family to help meet their basic needs such as drinking water, primary health care, basic education, safe environment and food security. Like in Alappuzha Model, CBNP&PAP was implemented through Community Development Societies of women, who belonged to high-risk families. The risk index adopted in Alappuzha model is slightly modified to suit the regional peculiarities of Malappuram district.
Kudumbashree: Kerala State Poverty Eradication Mission
After amazing success of Malappuram district experiment, Government of Kerala launched Kudumbashree as a state poverty eradication mission in 1998 for wiping out absolute poverty from the state through concerted community action under the leadership of local self governments, Kudumbashree is today one of the largest women empowering projects in the country. The programme has covered 39.97 lakh members and more than 50% of the households in Kerala. It built around three critical components like micro credit, entrepreneurship and empowerment (Kudumbashree Annual Report, 2015). Kudumbashree initiative has today succeeded in addressing the basic needs of the less privileged women. Therefore, they lead a more dignified life and a better future.
The literal meaning of Kudumbashree is prosperity (shree) of family (Kudumbam). Kudumbashree plays a vital role in enhancing the financial status of the less privileged women in the state through its thrift and credit societies. These societies facilitate them to save and provide them with cost-effective and easy credit. The savings of the women are pooled together and given out as loans to the most deserving. These loans has used for purposes ranging from covering hospital expenses to working capital needs for micro enterprises. The Community Development Societies facilitate bank linkages for farming, micro housing and micro insurances. They also serve as the delivery point of skill upgradation and market development support to micro enterprises.
Mission of the Kudumbashree
The mission of Kudumbashree is “to eradicate absolute poverty through concerted community action under the leadership of local governments, by facilitating organization of the poor for combining self-help with demand-led convergence of available services and resources to tackle the multiple dimensions and manifestations of poverty, holistically”
The Strategies of Kudumbasree
Kudumbashree aims at empowerment of women to become the active leaders rather than passive recipients. The strategies are:
The programmes conceived as a part of the strategy to reduce poverty are:
Structure of Kudumbashree
Kudumbashree has three tiers Community Based Organization (CBO) for its effective administration and decentralized operations. Neighborhood group (NHG) or Ayalkoottam-This is the lowest tier consisting of 15 to 40 women members from poor families. Meetings were arranged on a weekly basis, in the house of one of the NHG or Ayalkoottam members. The Area Development Society (ADS) is the second tier. ADS are formed at ward level- Panchayat, municipality or a corporation by joining 10-15 NHGs. The Community Development Society (CDS) is the highest tier formed by union of all the ADSs in the respective Panchayat, in ‘rural’ or municipality and in ‘town’ or corporation in city areas. It monitors the thrift and credit activities of NHGs. The district level, District Kudumbashree Mission will be monitoring the activities and the state level, State Kudumbashree Mission will be monitoring the activities.
Micro-enterprises Development through Kudumbashree
The most widely practiced Kudumbashree is the setting of micro-enterprises using local resources and skills. These micro-enterprises groups are different from Kudumbashree Neighborhood Group (NHG) or Ayalkoottam. Members of various Neighborhood Groups (NHGs) or Ayalkoottams in an area come together and form a micro-enterprises group. They discuss about their new enterprise ideas and they get upgraded training in Kudumbashree mission. Thus, this programme ensures local reposefulness. It implies managerial, productive and marketing skills of local women. Kudumbashree views on micro-enterprise development, as an opportunity for providing gainful employment to the people below poverty line and thereby improving their income and living standard and generate additional employment opportunities to bring down the incidence of poverty. Kudumbashree founded the micro-enterprise to be the best tool women empowerment and it has acquired vast experiences by venturing into innovative micro-enterprises. The micro-enterprises set up by Kudumbashree in urban and rural areas of the state by individuals and groups. Almost 97 activities undertaken by various Kudumbashree micro-enterprises groups in the state like canteen services, dairy units, hotel, garment unit, goat rearing etc.
Process of Micro Enterprises Formation under Kudumbashree
Micro Enterprises Development Programmes under Kudumbashree
Rural Micro-Enterprises (RME) Scheme
The success of centrally sponsored enterprise programmes in the urban areas prompted the Kudumbashree Mission to comeup with similar enterprise programme in rural areas. The Rural Micro-Enterprises (RME) Programme was initiated to help women to set-up a group and individual enterprises. The minimum number of people required for a group enterprise being five. Various activities like catering groups, traditional delicacies, paper products, super markets, direct marketing of various food products, goat rearing, dairy units, rabbit rearing etc. have been formed under the RME Scheme.
In order to meet the increasing demands of setting up Micro-enterprises, the Yuvashree (programme for generating jobs for 50000 youth) was launched in the year 2005. It provides an opportunity for the unemployed youth, both men and women in the age group 18-35 from Kudumbashree families to start enterprises. Twenty-seven Nutrimix, IT units, KAASS (Kudumbashree Accounts and Audit Service Society) and EKSAT are some of the innovative enterprises begun under the banner of Yuvashree. However, the Yuvashree programme does not have as many takers as RME and SJSRY, as potential entrepreneurs see the conditionality’s of the programme as too restrictive. The Objective of the programme listed below:
Innovation Fund/Technology Fund
This fund helps enterprises with innovative ideas and technology needs. Special technology needs could be meeting through the technology fund. Innovation fund was initiated into supporting innovative micro-enterprise. The main objective is to cover initial risk. The maximum amount eligible is should not exceed 50% of total project cost including subsidy plus innovation fund. The Samagra teams in the districts would identify the suitable innovative micro-enterprise projects. Technology fund was planned to procure advanced and innovative technologies for setting up micro-enterprises under Kudumbashree. The cost of technology includes the cost to develop a new technology, purchase of a technology from research organizations, laboratory, individuals and NGOs etc. The proposals of the district mission team should be scrutinized by the state level screening committee. The following constitute the state level screening committee for scrutinizing the projects:
Revolving funds meant for meeting urgent requirement of working capital. The enterprises are eligible for revolving fund at 15% of the total project cost subject to a maximum of INR 35,000 per group.
Crisis Management Fund
Crisis management funds meant for responding to an unpredictable negative event to prevent it from escalating into an even bigger problem related to micro-enterprise activities of Kudumbashree. Kudumbashree adopts four approaches towards the crisis management:
Second Dose Assistance to Micro-Enterprises
This is a special assistance programme to help units, which have fallen on hard times to revive and develop strategies to become viable again. The funds will be sanctioned for diversification and expansion of current business activity.
Interventions under Micro-Enterprises of Kudumbashree
Micro-Enterprises (ME) Meets
Micro-Enterprises (ME) meet were conducted at block level throughout the state to identify enterprises needs and support market facilitation. These meet helped in networking those enterprises that had not availed of subsidy support from Kudumbashree. Kudumbashree succeeded in conducting 87 ME meets and supporting 5399 enterprises in the last fiscal year 2015. Kudumbashree provided support in the following areas:
Information Technology Consortium
When the mission felt the need to set up computer units for women, it provided opportunities for women having a minimum educational qualification of Plus 2 (Higher Secondary) or above with a computer diploma or certificate. The first such unit, Techno-world Digital Technologies, was inaugurated at Thiruvananthapuram on 15 September 1999. At present, 63 Kudumbashree computer data processing units and 5 hardware units functions in the 14 districts in Kerala. They are run by 10-member women’s groups and are in urban areas. To begin with, the units had five computers, one three KVA Uninterruptible Power Source (UPS), one printer, one scanner and the necessary furniture. Today, most of the units have 10 to 25 computers, high-speed laser printers, and high-speed digital color printers. These units takeup government orders for IT work such as data entry into the provident fund, voter’s list, BPL survey, and so on. In addition, the units do software development, website designing, hosting and maintenance.
Special Enterprises under Kudumbashree
Some innovative micro-enterprises are listed below:
Santhwanam- Health Care Enterprise
Santhwanam-Health Care Enterprise is a Kudumbashree’s intervention in health and health care for poor people. It is the collaborative effort of Kudumbashree, HAP (Health Action for People-an NGO) and SBI (State Bank of India).This seeks to facilitate, identification and monitoring of life style diseases in the community. Santhwanam entrepreneurs are educated women from Kudumbashree families; preference is given to women who are graduates or have passed 12th class with a science background. The entrepreneurs screen the various individuals for the presence of dominant risk factors and diseases at their homes. The home based screening system makes the measurements/estimations in height, body weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), body fat, blood pressure and blood glucose etc. Service providers equipped with two wheelers and mobile phone. They visit households and conduct routine checkups. The project ensures the primary health care service to the doorstep of poor people.
Solid Waste Management
Kudumbashree initiated an innovative enterprise namely, ‘Clean Kerala Business’. Under this enterprise, women from the poor families that are the members of the Community Based Organisations (CBOs) of Kudumbashree are engaged in door-to-door household waste collection and transport to the transit points fixed by the urban local bodies. Dhanalakshmi, (2014) observed that employment opportunities in cites for urban poor women are very limited because they are lack in education and employable skills. Most of these women are undertaken different kinds of petty income earning activities before they joined in Kudumbashree for waste composting or solid waste management.
Utilizing the enterprise opportunity for producing and marketing fresh milk to urban consumers, Kudumbashree implemented the pilot micro-enterprise projects named “Nature Fresh” at Edavetti Grama Panchayat of Idukki district of Kerala. As part of the project, cows were distributed among women. A four member women-marketing group delivers the milk to the houses within one hour in bottles. Traceability ensured by numbering the cows and the same number are affixed to the bottles containing its milk. Low cost cattle sheds to ensure maximum hygiene, designed by experts have been constructed in all the homesteads. There was also hand on facilitation by the veterinary surgeon and the dairy development officer on matters of feed, disease management, hygiene control etc. Two wheeler vehicles have been provided for the marketing group through loans. The beauty of the project is that hygienic management and fresh supply have enabled the project to charge a premium for the milk for its freshness, and demand to continue to outstrip supply. This model has been adopted by other Panchayats in Kerala and has become the basis of the milk based Samagra Projects of Kudumbashree and Ksheerasagaram.
Amrutham Nutrimix is an innovative Kudumbashree programme that was launched in 2006, under instructions from the Supreme Court of India, came up with the Take Home Ration Strategy (THRS), a feeding programme for children in the zero to three years age group from Below the Poverty Line (BPL) families through Anganwadis, the mission approached the government to procure orders for the supply of the food supplement. As it was baby food, hygiene, quality and a regular supply had to be ensured while maintaining the calorific value directed by the Supreme Court. Kudumbashree sought the help of the Central Plantations Crop Research Institute (CPCRI) in Kasaragode, a research organization, to prepare a recipe for the food supplement. The Kudumbashree mission prepared 396 groups in the state with a maximum capacity of producing three metric tonne a month. A nominal price to fetch a minimum return to the producers was fixed for each packet that was supplied to the Social Welfare Department (Rs. 56/-), while the entrepreneurs could sell it at their own rates for local markets with additional ingredients (up to Rs. 100).
IT & ITES
Data entry work taken up by government departments is being out sourced to these units, which give employment to over 2500 poor women. In 2008-09, the IT units were taken up mostly with digitizing the Below Poverty Line (BPL) data and ration cards for the state government. Various IT units also took up hospital kiosks for birth registration. Capacitating of these units to take on servicing web management and free software based work is underway.
Micro Enterprise Consultants (MECs)
Micro Enterprise Consultants (MECs) is educated men and women identified by the CDS from Kudumbashree families. They were capacitated in various fields with the support of institutions like Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII), Thoughts Academy etc. They were given business management training for the MECs, in collaboration with the Timbaktu Collective in Andhra Pradesh. Selected MECs were given CREAM (Certificate in Rural Entrepreneurship Administration and Management) training that was offered over a period of 42 days covering all aspects related to business management. Using the CREAM trained MECs as Master-trainers, the business management training was extended to all the MECs, through the TEAM training programme (Training for Entrepreneurship Administration and Management).
Training and Support
Kudumbashree’s training strategy is based on the concept of ‘Community Centered’ training as against ‘Institution Centered’ training. The following micro enterprises provide training and support for Kudumbashree community net works.
EKSAT: An enterprise of training specialists from the community network of Kudumbashree.
They were providing training for organizational capacity building to the networks, as well as orientation programmes on enterprise and livelihood development.
TRISAT: Tribal Search and Action Team (TRISAT) started in early 2009 at Wayanad district of Kerala with the aim of exclusive development of tribal community by providing trainings, conducting workshops and through other means.
KAASS: Kudumbashree Accounts and Audit Service Society (KAASS) ensure proper account keeping of Kudumbashree community net works of each district has been furnished with KASS team that has been drawn from commerce graduate and guided by professional chartered accountants. This team facilitates and management of accounts at the NHG, ADS, CDS level.
Sales and Marketing Entrepreneurs (SME)
Kudumbashree provides support to micro-enterprises to enhance their marketing capabilities. Specific training programmes are designed to help entrepreneurs gain skills and aptitude to approach the market in an effective manner. Monthly markets are organized by district level Sales and Marketing Enterprises to provide regular market interface to the enterprises. In many cases, the CDS have initiated weekly and daily markets enabling much stronger market linkage for the enterprises. Kudumbashree promotes Community Marketing Enterprises to enable micro-enterprises to access markets on a regular basis. These support enterprises will enable clustering of the micro-enterprise units and help clusters to achieve economies of scale. Support for brand development and communication activities are provided.
Samagra – Value Chain Interventions
Samagra is the comprehensive value chain intervention initiated by Kudumbashree. Samagra projects strive to take advantage of local conditions- resource and market availability. Samagra projects are designed to establish production, processing and marketing enterprises and bringing these together on a common platform. Samagra projects have started in the following commodities/products/services like banana, pineapple, cashew, mushroom, vegetables, milk, goat rearing, food processing, shoe uppers, apparels etc.
Special Livelihood Interventions in Urban Areas under Urban Micro-Enterprises Scheme (UME)
Women Construction Teams
Women construction teams’ concept was developed and designed with the support of HUDCO. The team consists the women having civil engineering background, diploma/ITI holders in civil engineering and unskilled/semi skilled women laborers (masons). The women having civil engineering background are trained as consultants, diploma/ITI holders in civil engineering are provided site supervision training and unskilled/ semi skilled women laborers (masons) are given skill up gradation training of construction techniques. The training module is developed by Laurie Baker Center for Habitat Studies and training is provided by KITCO, Kochi & Archana Women’s Center, Kottayam. The objective is to upgrade, diversify and certify the skills of laborers in new technologies and emerging standards in the construction industry. The pilot project was implemented in Ernakulum district of Kerala and based on its success it would be replicated in all cities of the state.
Safe journeys to women and children especially at odd timings made the Kudumbashree Mission to think of an innovative enterprise the Kudumbashree travels. The women taxi services piloted in Thiruvananthapuram the state capital, expanded on almost all the districts. Call centre, GPS monitoring system, web enabled services the key features which a professional taxi service has is associated with Kudumbashree travels also. Specific design & colors combination having Kudumbashree logo makes the vehicle easily tracked and known. The project was implemented in the urban areas though women from rural areas too can become part of the service. The project was named, She taxis.
Cooking is always considered a monopoly on women. The Kudumbashree Mission explored the potential for cooking as a means of livelihood and encouraged Kudumbashree women to start canteen and catering groups across of the state. Intensive training for health, food habits, customer management, the concept of service etc were provided for potential beneficiaries. The most highlighted aspect is that no change in the recipes is made in order to retain the taste and favor of ethnic delicacies of each locality. The Kudumbashree canteen groups are mostly attached to government & other department offices. CAFÉ Kudumbashree is the brand developed by Mission for its food fests and it has developed a service and production protocol to the entrepreneurs who intends to participate in the fests. Performance Improvement Programme (PIP) trainings and handholding to support are provided for the entrepreneurs to ensure the quality and hygiene standards.
Women Wellness Centers
Kudumbashree wellness centers came as an aftermath of Santwanam programme. Women, who are reluctant and are not having facilities to exercise, to find time for their health care are encouraged to visit wellness centers run by Kudumbashree women. Modern equipments, classes for health habits, cookery classes are conducted as part of these centers. The project was implemented in urban areas of Kerala.
Mineral Water Bottling Plant
Mineral waters bottling plant operated by five members group plus five daily wages women. The minimum three cents land required for starting of enterprise. It initially introduced in Malappuram municipality, Kerala and now they producing 48000 liters per day. Investment of 25 lakhs and marketing -20 liters at Rs.10/-
Terrace farming of the Kudumbashree is a programme for ensuring the organic farming, sustainability of vegetable and the nutritional security for family and encourage cultivation for landless in urban areas. Farming training will be providing Krishi Vigyan Kendra/agricultural department of the state. Kudumbashree acts as beneficiary or they act as enterprise group that facilitates cultivation among urban families.
Kudumbashree is an innovative model participatory developmental approach through micro credit, entrepreneurship and empowerment perspectives. The ultimate aim at this project is to create economic, social and political empowerment of women and eradicate absolute poverty. Now, this model practice was adopted some other states in India. Enterprises development through Kudumbashree ensures a sustainable livelihood of women especially in weaker section of the society by utilizing their local resources and knowledge for promoting self sustainability and independence, personal autonomy, strengthen the power of decisions-making related to family and others, socio-economic and political empowerment. It guarantees sustainable livelihood of women and eradicate the poverty. Finally Kudumbashree succeeded its core objective of women empowerment and inclusion in the developmental process.
PhD Research Scholar in Social Work, Department of Social Work (UGC Center of Advanced Study), Jamia Millia Islamia (A Central University), New Delhi-110025, India
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