Hivos International

Beneficiary as agency role of women's agency and the Panchayat in implementing NREGA

The emergence of Kudumbashree (roughly translated as Blessed Family), as a powerful organisation of women from poorer households in Kerala, offers a promising modus operandi and modus vivendi to state-initiated schemes for poverty alleviation and social security. It had a modest beginning that over time grew into a significant socio-economic movement. Little wonder that the Kerala Government decided in the year of grace 1998 to implement all its poverty alleviation schemes and programmes through Kudumbashree.

Given the fact that Kudumbashree represents half the households in the State, it can safely be reckoned that it will comprise the officially recognised poor (through the holding of a BPL card)1 and those who consider themselves to be poor enough to join this organisation even without any official recognition. In a recent exercise it was found that the percentage of ‘poor and vulnerable’ households in Kerala in 2010 worked out to 48 per cent that seemed to vindicate the membership ratio in Kudumbashree2. Accordingly, when the NREG Act was implemented in the State in 2005-06, Kudumbashree emerged as a major player in the implementation process within the framework of the panchayat raj whereby village panchayats assumed responsibility for local-level planning and decisions relating to implementation. This study is therefore an attempt to understand this new implementation process through the study of a village panchayat located in the Trivandrum (also known as Thiruvananthapuram) district.

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