Case Study

Scaling Up Kudumbashree: Collective Action for Poverty Alleviation and Women's Empowerment

Is decentralization successful in poverty alleviation?
Download 70 pages

This paper discusses the factors that enabled, and constrained, the scaling up of a multi-sectoral poverty alleviation program called Kudumbashree, initiated by the Government of Kerala, (GOK), India, in 1998 to eradicate poverty by 2008.

The paper presents the following information about Kudumbashree:

  • In 1991, the GOK initiated the Community-Based Nutrition Program (CBNP) in Alleppey town to improve the health and nutritional status of children and women;
  • CBNP facilitated collective action by forming and developing the capacity of three-tiered community development societies (CDS);
  • CDS had only women as members;
  • The program identified women from poor families and organized them in to neighborhood groups of 20-45 families;
  • These groups had a system of internal control and regulation;
  • This program was expanded in the State.

The paper identifies the following:

  • Enabling features of the program:
    • Decentralization and devolution of finances to the local government bodies (LGBs);
    • Financial sustainability through various modalities;
    • Leadership and innovation from officials;
    • Partnerships with other institutions;
    • Training and capacity building of LGBs.
  • Constraining features of the program:
    • The inclusion of all women, instead of just those below the poverty line;
    • Delays in negotiations between various stakeholders.

The paper concludes by listing potential trade-offs of the program, which include:

  • Shrinking focus on maternal and child health, and nutrition issues;
  • Increasing signs of the CDS and LGBs becoming bureaucratic.

About this Publication

By Kadiyala, S.