Svarnim Puducherry has been engaging with TISS, Mumbai, in several initiatives. As part of an ongoing Field Institute for the students from TISS Mumbai of Urban Policy and Governance, which is being organized jointly by Centre for Environment Education, Ahmedabad, Dr. Manjula Bharathy, Professor & Dean School of Habitat Studies, TISS, Mumbai was in Puducherry. Making use of this opportunity, Svarnim Puducherry organized a talk on the Kudumbashree Journey, which is a very successful women-centric poverty alleviation programme initiative in Kerala. Dr. Manjula was the former Chief Operating Officer of the Kudumbashree Mission, Kerala.
Mr. Jayanta of Svarnim introduced Dr. Manjula. Mr. Avinash of CEE Ahmedabad briefly explained Dr. Manjula's work and projects in TISS. This session was aimed to give an overall exposure to the Kudumbashree initiative and how this is closely linked to the local self governments there and the rich lessons learnt from its implementation. If properly implemented and thoroughly practised, this Kudumbashree model with adaptations to the social, cultural and historical context of Puducherry, will significantly impact the region of Pondicherry and have a positive impact on the democracy.
Dr. Manjula started with the discussion with a story. In this story, a group of women are cheered by other people, and they set for rowing.
After hours of rowing, they still find they are in the same place. Stressed, some women jump out of the boat and start swimming; some drown, and some cannot reach the island which denotes the centre of power. The women in the boat continue to row, but after some time, they lose hope and turn to find out that they are still in their starting place.
Through this story, Dr. Manjula portrayed the status of women in today's world.
The gathering was deeply observed in her talk when she laid down facts on women's status in decision-making. Terms like hegemony, governmentality, and the difference between woman and citizen added spice to the discussion. She further stated that women in Kerala suffer from severe mental health issues, and suicidal rates are high in Kerala. Then she questioned, if this is the scenario in a state that boasts a 100% literacy rate, what will be the condition of other states?
The other topics of discussion were:
- Rights-based interventions for deepening deliberative democracy.
- Local governance poverty alleviation and women empowerment.
- Gendering governance.
- Kerala model of development and the role of women.
- Challenges to the women's growth in Kerala.
- Poverty alleviation programme with a difference.
- The mission of Kudumbashree and much more.
Dr. Manjula actively engaged the participants throughout her session. The PPT presentation was highly informative and educative. The stories and anecdotes added flavour to the session.
There were around 50 participants in the event, and the session lasted for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
During the snack break, the question and answer session helped deepen understanding of the Kudumbashree model and how it could be replicated with local adaptation in Svarnim Puducherry’s agenda.