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Kudumbashree is the women empowerment and poverty eradication program, framed and enforced by the State Poverty Eradication Mission (SPEM) of the Government of Kerala. The Mission aims to eradicate absolute poverty within a definite time frame of 10 years under the leadership of Local Self Governments formed and empowered by the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution of India.[1] The Mission launched by the State Government with the active support of Government of India and NABARD has adopted a different methodology in addressing poverty by organizing the poor in to community-based organizations. The Mission follows a process approach rather than a project approach. The mission was officially inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998 as requested by the State Government.[2]

Kudumbashree, a community organization of Self Help Groups (SHG's) of women in Kerala, has been recognized as an effective strategy for the empowerment of women in rural as well as urban areas: bringing women together from all spheres of life to fight for their rights or for empowerment. The overall empowerment of women is closely linked to economic empowerment. Women through these NHGs work on a range of issues such as health, nutrition, agriculture, etc. besides income generation activities and seeking micro credit.

Kudumbashree was conceived as a joint programme of the Government of Kerala and Nabard implemented through Community Development Societies (CDSs) of Poor Women, serving as the community wing of Local Governments. Kudumbashree is formally registered as the "State Poverty Eradication Mission" (SPEM), a society registered under the Travancore Kochi Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Act 1955. It has a governing body chaired by the State Minister of LSG. There is a state mission with a field officer in each district. This official structure supports and facilitates the activities of the community network across the state. Kudumbashree differs from conventional programmes in that it perceives poverty not just as the deprivation of money, but also as the deprivation of basic rights. The poor need to find a collective voice to help claim these rights.

The grassroots of Kudumbashree are Neighbourhood Groups (NHG in short) that send representatives to the ward level Area Development Societies (ADS). The ADS sends its representatives to the Community Development Society (CDS), which completes the unique three-tier structure of Kudumbashree. Today, there are 2.77 lakhs NHGs, over 19,854 ADSs and 1073 CDSs in Kudumbashree.

It is this network that brings women to the Grama Sabhas and helps them bring the needs of the poor to the attention of the local governments. The Community Development Societies are also very active in Government programmes and play significant roles in development activities ranging from socio-economic surveys and enterprise development to community management and social audit.

Through its efforts to engage women in civil society in development issues and opportunities, Kudumbashree in association with the local self government of Kerala is charting out new meaning and possibilities for local economic development and citizen centric governance.

Women in Kerala[edit]

Kerala is a state with several achievements in the social development of women and in the balance of gender status has stabilised in many fronts, the details of which are available from the government website on Kerala Women

  • Kerala has a high female literacy rate of 86.2%, a low infant mortality rate (IMR) of 12(6 in 2017) (against the national average of 40 (RHS Bulletin, March 2012, M/O Health & F.W., GOI) [3]) a favourable sex ratio of 1084 female/1000 male, low maternal mortality rate (MMR) 0.8/1000 and a high life expectancy of 74 female/70 male. However, the absence of women in the public domain remains as a paradox of the Kerala model of development.
  • The economic marginalisation of women in the development process has drawn considerable attention during recent years. While the female work participation rate in India increased from 19.7% to 22.7% between 1981 and 1991, in Kerala the ratio declined from 16.6% to 15.9% during the same period. The incidence of unemployment among females in the State is higher than that among males by 5 times in rural areas and 3 times in urban areas. Unemployment in Kerala is severe and is estimated to be 3 times larger than of India.
  • The gender-oriented division of labour has resulted in the concentration of women in low paying unorganized sectors such as agricultural labour, cottage and traditional industries and selected service sectors. Despite the powerful trade union movements, equal wages for equal work still remains a mirage and gender discrimination at the work place is widely prevalent.
  • The marginalisation of women in the economic process and lack of control over resources have been major impediments in improving the status of women.
  • The violence against women and incidence of sexual harassment continue to increase (number of registered crimes increased from 1862 in 1991 to 4937 in 1996).
  • Despite the general progressive political environment in the state, active involvement of women in various leadership levels is low.


The mission of Kudumbashree is “to eradicate absolute poverty in ten years 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”.[4]


The specific objectives are:

  1. Identification of poor families through risk indices-based surveys, with the active participation of the poor and the communities to which they belong.
  2. Empowering the poor women to improve the productivity and managerial capabilities of the community by organizing them into community-based organizations (CBOs).
  3. Encouraging thrift and investment through credit by developing CDSs to work as informal bank of the poor.
  4. Improving incomes of the poor through improved skills and investment for self -employment.
  5. Ensuring better health and nutrition for all.
  6. Ensuring BASIC amenities like safe drinking water, sanitary latrines improved shelter and healthy environment.
  7. Ensuring a minimum of 5 years of primary education for all children, belonging to risk families.
  8. Enabling the poor to participate in the decentralization process through the Community Development Society (CDS), as it is a subsystem of the local government, under which it works.

To achieve the specific objectives of the mission, several auxiliary objectives are pursued methodically.


Kudumbashree, a female-oriented, community-based, poverty reduction project of Government of Kerala. Kerala is an Indian state lying in the south-west part of Indian subcontinent, where many development experiments are being tested, refined and implemented.

The mission aims at the empowerment of women, through forming self-help groups and encouraging their entrepreneurial or other wide range of activities. The purpose of the mission is to ensure that the women should no longer remain as passive recipients of public assistance, but active leaders in women-involved development initiatives. Kudumbashree movement was launched by former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee at a function chaired by the then Local Administration Minister Paloli Mohammed Kutty at Kottakkunnu in Malappuram on May 17, 1998. The program has derived from the works of Fr. Edwin John in Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu, who started the movement called Neighborhood Community Network. An out come of NCN is Neighborhood Children's Parliament has got UN recognition as the best Children's empowerment program.


The following are the community structures suggested for the rural side:

  • Kudumbashree Ayalkoottam (NHG)
  • Kudumbashree Ward Samithy (ADS)
  • Kudumbashree Panchayat Samithy (CDS)

The paradigm shift in the approach is that any woman who is residing in the Grama Panchayat can become a member of the Kudumbashree Ayalkoottam irrespective of whether she is in a below poverty line (BPL) family. Since this aspect gives an opening for the above poverty line (APL) families to enter into the community structures envisaged by Kudumbashree, it is further ensured that majority of the office bearers should belong to BPL families. These structures give added importance to women empowerment both social and economic.


The action plan charted out for Kudumbashree is:

  • Formation of women collectives: The poor women from families identified will be organised into Neighbourhood Groups (NHG) representing 15 to 40 families. A five-member team elected from the NHGs will be the cutting edge of the programme. NHGs will be federated democratically into Area Development Societies (ADS) at the Panchayat/Municipality Ward level and then into Community Development Societies (CDS) at the Panchayat/Municipal level. Their organizational structures will provide opportunities for collective public action.
  • More information and training: Weekly meetings of NHGs, sharing of experiences, discussions, organised trainings etc., will broaden their outlook on better health, better education, better social and economic status.
  • Skill upgrade training: To facilitate economic development, suitable skill upgrades training will be given to women.
  • Thrift - credit operations and 24-hour banking system: Enabling women to realize their latent potential, strengthening them through self-help are the main objectives of Kudumbashree. Small savings generated at the families are pooled at various levels as thrift and used to attract credit from banks, which will operate as 24-hour bank for the poor, acting as a sub-system of the formal banks.
  • Better living conditions - Infrastructural facilities: The needs identified at NHG level are shaped as micro plans which are integrated into mini plans at Area Development Society (ADS) level and action plan at CDS level. This will be the anti-poverty sub plan of the local body and this will facilitate convergent delivery of Government programmes meant for the poor. Rather than the traditional system of heavily subsidized approach, Kudumbashree promote self-help approach for building houses, latrines, access to drinking water, sanitary facilities etc., availing the minimum support from Government. Common infrastructural facilities in the community strengthens them further.
  • Micro-enterprises for sustainable economic development: Providing skill upgrade trainings, self-employment opportunities and infrastructural development through wage employment schemes are the preparing grounds for further development of successful micro enterprises. Kudumbashree is bent on giving necessary resource support and facilitate forward/backward linkages etc., to promote micro-entrepreneurship among poor women.
  • Power to the people especially the poor women: The skill for identification of needs, fixing priorities, availing resources, bridging gap between needs and resources in a cost effective manner etc., are taught to the poor women groups in various phases. In the decentralization of power to the local bodies and common man, Kudumbashree can act as a healthy sub-system facilitating participation of poor women in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the programme.
  • Leadership - decision making power: Interaction in women collectives will help them to have a better understanding, which will lead to the emergence of leadership. This will help to ensure efficient women leadership to elected governments in future.
  • The ultimate goal: Reaching out family through women, and community through family, is the ultimate target of Kudumbashree.

Informal banking system[edit]

The three-tier CDS system, envisaged for poverty alleviation in Kudumbashree approach, will take up the informal banking responsibility also. The poor women should be able to approach the informal banks whenever necessity occurs. The doors of the banks should be open for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. The informal banks are formed with the active involvement of every member belonging to the Self Help Group. An Informal Bank doesn't need an office building, furniture and other paraphernalia we normally relate with a formal bank.

The strength of an informal bank is the intimate relationship between the members of the Self Help Group. The members know each other's potentials weaknesses and problems. The members can deposit even trifle amount in the thrift scheme of the banks. Informal bank always tried to encourage saving habit among poor women. An informal bank can provide collateral free loans with the terms and conditions decided by the group. The Self Help Group behind the informal bank is free to fix market driven rates of interest for advances. Every operation of an informal bank takes place in the group level, including depositing of thrift amounts and sanctioning of thrift loans. The groups itself decides the eligibility of a member to get assistance from the bank after discussions and assessment of the need and repayment capacity.

The very existence of an Informal Bank brings about the homogeneity and affinity among members of the poor. Thrift savings of the members serve as the main bondage among members. The bank promote regularity in savings and assures sufficient frequency for group meetings. The informal banks will instill collective decision-making capability among the poor women. This sublime quality will be of great assistance to them for their fight against poverty and their participation in planning process and economic development activities. Informal banks will slowly do away with the subsidy syndrome prevailing in the lowest stratum of the society. The poor women will begin to enjoy the unique pleasure of doing things with their own money. The financial empowerment of women achieved through thrift and bank accessibility will improve their status in their own families and society. Naturally, their confidence will increase. Above all Informal Banks provide loans to the poor women at their own doorsteps without any hassle.

Once the informal banks of the NHGs, ADSs and CDS reach a certain level of maturity, they can grant loans to the members for genuine needs. Poor need financial assistance for several purposes, falling under four major categories.

Micro-Enterprise development[edit]

Supporting and sustaining micro enterprises has always been a challenge for development administration. Problems of scale, capability, market and vulnerability do not offer easy solutions. In the recent past Kudumbashree has been attempting to analyze and resolve these problems specifically and jointly, both by increasing the interface with the LSG and the entrepreneur regarding existing programmes, and by bringing new strategies and new programmes that help converge resources and address arising issues proactively and creatively.

Milestones at a glance[edit]

In contrast with the previous poverty eradication programmes there are no specific financial and physical targets set for Kudumbashree. Kudumbashree practices a process approach and not a project approach. Milestones of the Mission, at a glance, are as follows:[5]-.

  • The largest women movement in Asia with a membership of 41 lakhs representing equal number of families.
  • 41 lakh poor families brought under the community-based organisations (CBO)s consisting of 2.59 lakh Neighbourhood Groups (NHG), 19,773 Area Development Societies (ADSs) and 1,072 Community Development Societies (CDSs)- rural & urban.
  • Mobilised a sum of Rs. 2073 crores as thrift and disbursed loans amounting to Rs.8539.55 crores to the members of Neighbourhood Groups.
  • 1,50,755 NHGs graded under Linkage Banking Programme, out of which 1,28,425 NHGs linked with banks and an amount of Rs.2712 crores mobilised as credit.
  • 25050 individual enterprises and 1757 group (with minimum 5-10 members) enterprises of women developed in urban areas.
  • 3516 individual enterprises and 10620 group (with minimum 5-10 members) enterprises of poor women formed in rural areas.
  • 2,01,650 Women cultivators in 47611 groups for collective farming.
  • 376 group enterprises and 319 individual enterprises started under the Special Employment Programme (Yuvashree).
  • Ashraya-Destitute identification and Rehabilitation Project implemented in 745 Local Self Governments and 58,389 destitutes identified.
  • 44,586 houses constructed under the Bhavanashree housing loan scheme (without subsidy) for the poor in rural areas.
  • 248 entrepreneur groups (Thelima) formed for the municipal solid waste management in urban areas.
  • ‘Buds’-55 special schools for physically and mentally challenged children set up under the leadership of the Local Self Government.
  • 54,000 Balasabhas (Children’s) Neighbourhood Groups) with 4.25 lakh children formed in urban and rural areas.
  • In 2012, Kudumbashree was recognized as a National Resource Organisation (NRO) by Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), Government of India, under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM).[6][7][8]

Programme Implementation Team[edit]

The activities of Kudumbashree mission is controlled by a state level office, headed by an IAS officer and at district level a District Mission Team. At the panchayat level a charge officer is given the responsibility of the administration along with the CDS governing committee. The officials are government employees working on deputation with the mission. Besides, part-time consultants and experts are also engaged for specific tasks. The executive directors of Kudumbashree:

  1. Sri James Vargehes IAS, the first Executive Director and served the organisation from 1997-1998
  2. Sri T.K. Jose IAS, the main person behind the growth of Kudumbashree. He developed a team of passionate employees to work in the mission and started innovative programs like Ashraya (destitute rehabilitation project), Bhavanashree (microhousing), Vidyashree (IT@School units), Balasabha (forum for children), Clean Kerala Campaign (collection and disposal of solid waste), Clean Destination campaign (maintenance of tourist destinations by Kudumbashree workers) and numerous micro enterprises, ranging from computer to coconut oil production and food items to mini-bus service. One major development was the tie up with the state Department of Social Welfare to supply special nutritional supplements to the children in Anganwadis - under the name -Nutrimix- which has enabled thousands of rural women to manufacture and supply the nutritional supplement to their children all across the state. He was given the India vision Man of the Year award in 2007. Kudumbashree received most of the national and international recognition during his tenure.
  3. Smt. Sharada Muralidharan IAS, the third Executive Director.
  4. Dr. K.B. Valsalakumari is the fourth Executive Director.
  5. Shri A. Shajahan, IAS is the fifth Executive Director.
  6. Shri Harikishore IAS is the sixth and present Executive Director.


Year Name of Award
1998 UNCHS –100 Best Innovations
2000 CAPAM – International Innovations Gold Medal
2002 UN Habitat 2002 Practices Global 100 list
2002 Dubai International Award -Finalist
2004 UNDP – One among the 15 best practices in India
2006 India Innovation Award for the Social Innovations

The EMPI-Indian Express Indian Innovation Awards honour outstanding initiatives by Government organizations, NGOs and corporate houses across the country


The Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration


The National Award for BSUP (Basic Services to Urban Poor) implementation

2012 HUDCO's award for the best practices in slum improvement through community network

See also[edit]


External links[edit]