The role of Kudumbashree – Kerala's flagship woman empowerment programme – as an agent of social change was discussed in detail by the female MLA-elects of the state at a webinar, organised by Malayala Manorama.
The MLA-elects, including K K Shailaja, discussed the aims, achievements and the potential of the women's movement.
Shailaja, the health minister in the first Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet, termed Kudumbashree a turning point in the empowerment of women in Kerala. “Though Kudumbashree was started as an initiative to ensure financial security for women, it has grown into a huge movement. Today, women have a presence in all sectors. But this community still has the potential to go a long way,” she said.
C K Asha, who has been re-elected from Vaikom constituency, illustrated how Kudumbashree's potential as a driving force of entrepreneurship was used in her constituency in the past five years. “Startup units were started for women at the constituencies with the support of Kudumbashree and local self-government bodies. A total of 650 various startups are functioning in Vaikom. The district Kudumbashree mission is leading this. Attempts are on to implement more steps in the next five years. The PEPPER Tourism, a rural tourism venture developed in Vaikom, has the partnership of both local bodies and Kudumbashree,” the CPI leader said.
J Chinchu Rani, another CPI MLA-elect, echoed her party colleague's views. “Kudumbashree has been able to empower women socially and economically to a large extent and encourage women entrepreneurs,” she said.
Kanathil Jameela, who has been elected from Koyilandi, pointed out Kudumbashree's role in helping women overcome social constructs and stereotyping. “This is not the era where the woman is left to shed tears in the kitchen. That change was possible due to initiatives such as Kudumbashree,” the CPM leader said.
The MLA-designates also discussed women’s safety, with special emphasis on law enforcement.
RMPI's K K Rema, who registered her maiden victory from Vadakara, stressed on the need for strict monitoring of sexual abuse cases. “Only very few survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse seek legal action. The bitter experiences of those who had previously taken the legal course is preventing most women from complaining. We have also seen the Walayar and Palathayi cases, where the predators and the police joined forces. Most cases are weakened due to the deliberate laxity from the part of the probe officers and scuttling of procedures. To stop such unlawful practices, strict action should be taken. Such cases should be monitored by an independent judicial body such as the Women's Commission from the beginning,” she said.
Adding to this, Kanathil Jameela said the problem was not the absence of laws for women, the failure to follow them.
Kongad's MLA-elect K Shanthakumari said Vigilance committees should be actively present from the grassroots level to ensure the safety of women.
“There are facilities such as legal service authorities at the sub-division level that provide free legal aid for women. Though there are government bodies such as the Women's Commission for women's safety, the Commission can give the necessary recommendations in various matters,” she said.
CPM's Veena George, who retained her Aranmula constituency, called for the need to make the Women's Commission a more effective system. “A timely revamp is needed, while considering all aspects from the beginning,” she said.
Pointing out a serious lapse in the enforcement of law, C K Asha recollected her own experience of seeking police help against cyber attack in vain. “I had given a police complaint after facing a cyberattack. Even after five years, there has been no significant progress in the proceedings. The problem is not the lack of laws but the delay in implementation. 'Justice delayed is justice denied' is what we say. Only if strict action is taken will such practices stop,” she said.