Kudumbashree, over the years, has gained acceptance as a women's agency. It is part of life for millions of Kerala families. It has made a difference to thousands of women and their families. Still, what exactly is the Kudumbashree idea? There are people who believe that Kudumbashree has been an idea that came up in Kerala's specific context. Yet, there are others who argue that it has been part of the larger trend of self-help groups. For some, it has been an idea that had been shaped by the need for poverty eradication. For some others, it has been the much needed women's agency. In this context, an attempt is being made here to explore the evolution of the idea called 'Kudumbashree'.
From the perspective of a government programme, Kudumbashree was the extension of the CDS experiments in Alappuzha and Malappuram. At the same time, the CDS initiatives themselves had drawn lessons and strategies from the NABARD led initiative of SHG Bank Linkage Programme.
As an idea, its base has been neighbourhood groups (NHGs); the NHG idea had its own history within the State’s civil society domain.
The NHG idea stayed in contrast with the SHG concept that had been promoted in many countries as well as in several States of India. The NHGs here were to be forums for planning and development action too. The concept of such NHGs too have peculiar roots in Kerala’s development history. And the very concept of forming groups around neighbourhoods had been ingrained in traditional forms of community organisation in the state.
In sum, the Kudumbashree idea appears to have evolved through the community mobilisation experiments in Alappuzha and Malappuram, also drawing in from the various civil society initiatives in community mobilisation for different purposes. The Kerala CDS model, as recognised widely, evolved from the Alappuzha and Malappuram experiments. However, these initiatives themselves were informed by the experiences of certain traditional community organisations and practices.
As pointed out by Rajeev Sadanandan, who was the District Collector at Malappuram during the experiment there, women in NHGs fixed 2% interest rate on the credit availed from the groups based on their experience in traditional organisations.
Eventually it was the decentralisation of powers to PRIs and the People’s Plan Campaign set the stage for Kudumbashree’s formation. Thus, it has been an outcome of its specific context.