|Photo credit: The Hindu|
Under this program, poor women with little access to education and medical care are trained and aided in finding avenues for earning. They learn better methods of agriculture, floriculture and as a means to diversify, restaurant management, cooking, handicraft making and pottery. Information on money management, women’s rights and payment entitlements is shared so women are able to make informed demands and decisions.
The impact: Women who earlier worried about sending their kids to school due to the expenses now find themselves better-equipped to educate their kids.
Tribal women have been able to ban the brewing and consumption of arrack (local liquor), the bane of family life. They control prices of provisions and vegetables by hiring jeeps to bring goods in bulk and sell them to members at the cheapest possible price. Earlier, families that were dependent on low-quality provisions doled out to them in limited quantity are able to purchase good quality items on their own strength.
The program also works on highlighting new areas where the women may focus attention to boost income. Thekkady and Alleppey are seeing an increase in tourism. Hotels, resorts and restaurants need quality vegetables in supply. Women are learning to grow new foods that are high on demand. Prices are better regulated since they are not working as isolated producers but as a large entity.
Sometimes, earning is insufficient to meet emergencies or social requirements. Each member deposits a small amount (Rs 10) and can avail a loan to get by the immediate need.
In the male-dominated tribal communities, the success of women’s self-help is particularly interesting.
Part of the success is the organisation structure at a grassroot level. At each district, Kudumbasree has a Community Development Society (CDS) which operates with the help of volunteers from the health and education sector, infrastructure and income generation. Apart from them, there is a representative from the finance department, a secretary and a president. Responsibility is shared as office bearers are regularly rotated to keep out vested interests. The role of Panchayat (community head) is limited so the women are free to present crucial issues like water, power or housing, earning (otherwise sidelined under a male-dominated structure).
Seeing the success of this movement, the state has introduced similar models to include more people (not only women) in the move to eradicate poverty.