The Kudumbashree Story

Community Network

Kudumbashree through the Years

Kudumbashree, since its formation, and its inauguration by the then Prime Minister of India, has come a long way. The Government Order announcing the formation itself had clearly mentioned the evolution of the CDS model till then, starting from Alappuzha, first extended to cover urban local governments, and then to rural local governments in Malappuram. The Order had spelled out the objectives of the programme and institutional structure for the community network. There have been numerous events and milestones in its history, some that contributed significantly to its evolution into a large women's movement, while some others helping it to survive rough weather. The following table captures some of the defining moments and events in the life of Kudumbashree, on the course of its evolution into what it is today.  




17th May 1998

Prime Minister launches Kudumbashree Mission in a function in Malappuram

Alappuzha Municipality had CDS system by 1994

In 1994, CDS system was formed in 94 Gram Panchayats and five Municipalities in Malappuram district.

In 1995, the CDS network was extended to cover all the 58 Municipalities in the state.

November 1998

State Poverty Eradication Mission (SPEM -Kudumbashree Mission) registered under the Travancore-Cochin Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Act 1955

Kudumbashree Mission becomes a legal entity with a Governing Body, Executive Committee, and staff.

September 1999

State Urban Poverty Alleviation (UPA) Cell wound up; SPEM declared State Urban Development Agency (SUDA)

Mission becomes the nodal agency for urban poverty alleviation projects.

August 2000

CDS system extended to 262 Gram Panchayats

The 262 Gram Panchayats were selected based on their performance in the People’s Plan campaign.

December 2001

CDS system further expanded to cover 338 more Gram Panchayats

Revised Guidelines were issued.

March 2002

CDS system launched in 291 more Gram Panchayats



CDS system extended to cover the entire state

Coverage becomes total for the State.

July 2007

State government issues orders integrating SHGs under SGSY with Kudumbashree

 End of dual membership of poor families in SGSY SHGs and Kudumbashree NHGs.


Standardised CDS bye-laws

Election guidelines issued

Common bye-laws for Kudumbashree CDS

Elections to the leadership in community organisation; election through consensus at respective general body meetings.


Elections Phase II

Second phase elections held in community organisation


Modified election guidelines

Secret ballot system replaces election through consensus at the respective general body meetings of the community organisation.

The Government of Kerala  announced the setting up of Kudumbashree vide Government Order G.O.(MS)No.240/97 of 29th October 1997; this Government Order (GO) is popularly knows as 240/97. Most of the people connected with Kudumbashree knows about this order. This GO was lucid in stating the objectives of launching Kudumbashree, as a time-bound programme for eradication of poverty in the State. The GO summarised the objectives as the following. 

  • Enlisting of poor households by the communities based on a 'Poverty Index'.
  • Empowering poor women through organising them into Community Development Societies (CDS) and enhancing their capacities. 
  • Developing CDSs into informal banks of the poor by promoting thrift and credit.
  • Enhancing women's incomes through self-employment.
  • Making health services available to the poor.
  • Improving basic amenities such as drinking water, sanitation, and housing for the poor. 
  • Ensuring education for children of 'risk' families.
  • Promoting participation of the poor in the decentralisation process through local government institutions. 

It is evident that while the G.O was categorical about the poverty alleviation programme, it linked it to community institution building and women's empowerment. It mentioned 'Poverty index' as a means of identifying the poor by the communities. This was recommended by the three member Task Force that recommended the formation of Kudumbashree. Regarding the community network and its relationship with the local governments too the G.O went by the recommendations of the Task Force. The G.O also mentioned a ward level body for coordination and monitoring of the community network. 

The G.O mentioned Rs 1 crore allocation in the State's annual budget for 1997-98 for the programme. it also mentioned Rs 10 crore allocation for the entire Ninth Plan period. The first five year programme of the ten year project for poverty eradication came into existence on 1st November 1997, which is the anniversary of the formation of Kerala State. The G.O directed the Urban Poverty Alleviation (UPA) Cell, to initiate the formative activities of Kudumbashree programme and said that with the advent of the State Poverty Eradication Mission (Kudumbashree), UPA Cell would be merged with it. 

Kudumbashree was launches as a State level programme ans was to be implemented on a mission-mode. The State government declared launching of the programme in the first phase in seven districts: Kasaragod, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram, Kollam, Palakkad, and Alappuzha. This was done vide Government Order G.O(Rt).73/98/LD of 3rd January 1998. The UPA Cell was still in charge and the G.O had entrusted the responsibility of training the State and District level functionaries with the Director of UPA Cell. The community network covered the entire State by 2003, in three phases. The first phase covered 261 Grama Panchayats (August 200), the second phase (March 2002) covered 291 more. 

The State Poverty Eradication Mission (SPEM) came into existence, in May 1999, vide Government Order G.O(MS) No. 55/98/LAD of 22nd May with the Minister for Local Administration as Chairman and Secretary, Local Administration Department as Vice Chairman. Executive Director of the Mission was the Convenor as per the G.O. 

Subsequently vide Government Order G.O (MS) No. 170/99/LAD of 1st September 1999, the State Government wound up the UPA Cell and declared the State Poverty Eradication Mission (Kudumbashree) as State Urban Development Agency (SUDA). This order marked the merger of UPA Cells with SPEM; UPA Cells were formed in 1994 along with the setting up of Urban Poverty Alleviation Fund as per Section 284 of the Kerala Municipalities Act 1994, vide Government Order G.O(MS)No. 292/94/LD of 26th December. According to this Order, every Municipality in the State was to set aside 2% of its annual budget towards UPA Fund. Funds under urban development schemes such as Nehru Rozgar Yojana (NRY), Urban Basic Services Project (UBSP), Low Cost Sanitation etc were merged with the UPA Fund. 

Kudumbashree Mission took up the initiative to extend the coverage of NHGs across the State on a campaign mode working through the local government institutions. For the three phases of the community organisation network expansion during 2000-2003, Kudumbashree mission prepared the Gram Panchayats by conducting three-day training programmes at the State level. Presidents, Vice Presidents, Welfare Standing Committee Chairpersons, and Secretaries of the Gram Panchayats along with the Key Resource Persons of the Peoples’ Plan Campaign attended the training programme in batches of 60 Gram Panchayats held at Thiruvananthapuram.

The training programme helped the attendees to develop a shared understanding of existing poverty alleviation programmes and ways of using various State and centrally sponsored schemes for poverty alleviation. The participants also jointly developed a road map for NHG upscaling process.

After the training programme, the Gram Panchayats held Panchayat level conventions to discuss the anti-poverty programmes implemented till then and to prepare road maps for eradicating poverty. Subsequently, similar conventions held at the ward level discussed the same matters. Decision to form Neighbourhood Groups within the ward area was taken in these meetings.

Through the campaign mode adopted, Kudumbashree Mission had been able to achieve expansion of the community network covering all the local governments in the State in three phases during 2000-2002. This was a marked breakaway from the SHG formation strategy followed by other departments and agencies, most importantly by the Department of Rural Development under Suvarna jayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY, which formed SHGs based on annual targets.

Under the annual target based approach, drop outs were common as the focus shifted to new areas for completing annual targets. On the other hand, the campaign mode ensured total coverage.

Thus, while the design of the community organisation structure was meant for working together with the PRIs, the campaign mode adopted for the expansion of the community network making PRIs to spearhead the programme set the stage for Community Organisation-PRI convergence.

Even as the Kudumbashree community network spread across the State, the Rural Development Department continued with the formation of SHGs under SGSY based on annual targets. Eventually the State Government decided to merge the SHGs under SGSY with the Kudumbashree community network in 2009. The Government Order that effected the merger, G.O(MS) No. 175/2007/LSGD of 12th July 2007. The G.O said that the step was necessitated by the fact that poor families were forced to be members of two Community Based Organisations (CBOs) as SGSY and Kudumbashree continued forming groups simultaneously. This understandably, was a landmark in the history of Kudumbashree community network. 

In spite of the clarity on the relationship between the community network and the local governments, there had been problems on this front. In most cases, the Kudumbashree CDS continued as a lower institutional system to the local governments. CDSs in different areas had different bylaws; there was no standardisation. The CDS office bearers were nominated by the local governments. 

Year 2008 marked a shift in this trend; the State Government approved common bylaws for Kudumbashree CDS in 2008 vide G.O(P) No.222/08/LSGD dated 8th August. The bylaws ended the nomination system and introduced open elections for CDS leaders. The election guidelines were modified in 2014 by revised bylaws; a significant modification was the introduction of secret ballots in the elections to the CDS.