Kudumbashree: How a Kerala government initiative to empower women and eradicate poverty, attained success

Vasanthi Hariprakash

In 1997, the Kerala government started a self-help group, with the aims of women empowerment and the eradication of poverty. They called it Kudumbashree, which means 'prosperity of the family' in Malayalam. It was recognised as a National Resource Organisation by the Indian government in 2012.

Today, it is 43 lakh women strong, making it one of the largest women's groups in the world. Most recently, the group's members cooked and fed the staff at polling stations in Kerala's capital Thiruvananthapuram on 23 April. The group followed the Green Protocol, using only steel utensils.

One Kudumbashree entrepreneur, Santha Kumari, explains the positive impact the programme has had on her life: "Earlier, my household expenses were met just with my husband's earnings. Now there has been a lot of change. I was able to marry off my daughter. I also set aside a portion from that and secure[d] my financial position. So, through Kudumbashree, I was able to achieve a lot."

The group has loyal customers who enjoy the quality of their food and service. One such customer says, "We come here regularly. We are getting homely food. This food is exactly what we get at home. Therefore we choose this place [sic]"; while another explains: "Two things I prefer, one is taste and the other is quality. And the curries they serve, you know, it is fantastic. Really, I love it. And the ladies also, the way they are dealing [with customers] and giving the food, it's unlimited also. So these qualities, these are the things which I was attracted here [sic]. So I am their customer for the past one year."

With this endeavour, the group saw tremendous success, having cumulatively generated Rs 1.27 crores across two days. Kudumbashree is now in the process of signing pacts with 19 states to help them set up similar programmes.

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