Civil society organizations play a major role in the development of society. With the emergence of the Panchayath-Raj Institutions, the relevance of People’s Organizations in creating progressive change in peoples’ lives received an impetus. The participation of women has increased down the years in Kerala. However miles are to be covered to bring considerable changes in actual equality and integration of these women. After independence the presence of women in the public realm has been further socially accepted, however there still stands many social, economic, and political constraints on their full participation. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation said, “As long as women participation is ignored in nation building it is not going to fulfill”. Today, KSSS takes civil society organizations as a priority not only for the welfare of women, but also for other marginalized groups, such as: small farmers, students without opportunity, and poor men.
We began at the Kaipuzha village in the year 1994 with Community Health Programs for women. We started to expand SHGs for women and men by programming for their own wants and needs to help them mobilize themselves for further integration into society. At present KSSS has 2814 Self Help Groups (SHGs) of women consisting of 20 to 30 members spread over Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Alappuzha, and Pathanamthitta districts of Kerala state. The purpose of these women SHG’s under KSSS is to enable them to have access to resources in forming, planning, monitoring, and evaluating social and family situations.
The women groups have a centralized networking system as the majority of them were registered in their respective Grama Panchayaths (village level ward) and Block Panchayaths (District level) to make them eligible for various development schemes of the Government. The groups in one Grama Panchayath (ward) are formed as a “Samgam” and registered under Travancore Cochin Literary Scientific and Charitable Societies Act. All groups and Samgams in one village celebrate Women’s Day, Onam, and New Year’s Day. Seminars and issue-based activities are organized in Samgam and village level. Groups in nearby villages constitute a region. Leadership training of group leaders and issue-based activities are organized at the regional level. All regions constitute the central level set up of the women self-help groups. Training of animators and advanced training for group leaders are offered at central level. An agricultural festival is held at central level every year in December. One trained animator from the village is assigned for each village. One coordinator is in charge of each Region. Special coordinators are appointed in the central level to visit the groups and to train the SHG members on Income Generation Programmes (IGP), agricultural training programmes, animation programmes etc.
Navomi Groups: Socio economic developmental programmes for widows are promoted through these groups. Most of the young widows prefer to live alone without getting remarriage because of social pressure or desire to take care of their young children. Such women have low or no source of income and have many insecurity problems. They are also discriminated by superstitious beliefs and inhuman customs. Some women are separated from their husbands because of family problems and they live alone. Some may be living as single woman. Some women have to take up the whole family burdens because the husband is either sick or irresponsible. All such women in each village are organized into groups called Naomi Groups. Our aim is to orient, to lead to self-sufficiency and to integrate them in to the main stream of the society. We have such 69 groups covering 1496 families.
Men Self-help groups (Sowhrudavedi): Kottayam Social Service Society promotes Self Help Groups for men in the villages. Through these groups we intend to organize the village men in order to direct their caliber and potentialities to the optimum extent for their own integral development. The idea of forming Self Help Groups for men emerged as a result of observation and discussion with general public. As a result of the formation of Self Help Groups, the group members could build a “We feeling” and now utilize their idle hours for meaningful purpose.
Haridavedi: KSSS has been involved in sustained Agricultural Development Programme in Hi-range Region of Idukki district and last year we expanded the programme to the Kidangoor region of Kottayam District. Under the INRM programme the earlier Agricultural Groups are reorganized and officially named as the ‘Haridavedi’ self help Groups. The ultimate aim of the programme is the promotion and revitalization of eco-friendly sustainable agricultural practices that we have practiced during the ancient period. They include the use of bio-fertilizers and pesticides, vermi-compost, bio-conservation and promotion programmes, natural weeding programmes, watershed development programmes, promotion of high yielding disease resistant varieties of plants and saplings etc. Using agricultural problems of the farmers in the Hi-ranges as an entry programme, we have helped the people to form 28 Haridavedi groups in the Idukki, Chunkom and Kidangoor regions. These groups consist of men, who love nature and crave for agriculture transformation. The activities are carried out with the support of the women SHGs in the regions. The group members are having group farming, nursery development, and regular monthly seminars and discussions on various topics related to agriculture. They have regular monthly meetings to evaluate plan and discuss the activities. The groups have democratically elected leaders to lead the activities.
Senior Citizens’ Groups: The second half of the 20th century witnessed the disintegration of the joint-family system and the development of nuclear families in Kerala. This left senior citizen members of family groups neglected by their own families and communities. They live alone and are not well taken care off. The group members meet once in two weeks to share their problems, to socialize, and to support each other. Some groups organize medical camps and seminars on the problems of the aged. At present there are 64 such groups functioning in various villages.
Smart groups for school-going children: In order to bring out the talents of the children from the backward families especially the children of the SHG members, we have promoted the formation of Smart groups for 6th to 8th grade students. The main objective of the programme is to enhance resource development of the unprivileged children. The selected children were provided with weekend training on personality development, career orientation and leadership training, supplementary education to the poor students, to orient and to inspire the children and to facilitate opportunities for their overall development, to help the less privileged children to gain more general knowledge through classes and seminars, to help the children to become competent to meet the challenges in the future, and to develop self-esteem among the poor children. So far 56 such groups were formed in various villages. One full time coordinator and 8 resource persons are working for the programmes.
Community Based Rehabilitation (C.B.R) groups: KSSS has started C.B.R for physically handicapped and mentally challenged as a model programme for Kerala State in 1997. It involves rehabilitating the person in his/her own family and community with the cooperation of the family members, community, and use of various resources available within and outside the community. We train the disabled to live by themselves and to work according to their abilities so that they become contributing members in the family and in the society. As part of the community based rehabilitation programmes, we have been organizing SHGs for the differently-abled people in our operational villages. They meet once in two weeks, share their problems, offer mutual support, and start income generation programmes for self-sufficiency. The SHG members include the disabled persons and their parents. So far we have organized 97 SHGs for the differently –abled people in 97 villages of our operational districts
Youth Club: In order to nurture the youth in a productive way, KSSS formed youth clubs for the poor youngsters in the villages. Personality development, leadership training, career orientated programmes, savings and credit and skill training are the main activities of the group.
Credit Unions for Self Help Groups: Our self-help groups have started credit unions for their members. The members save at least Rs. 10/- per week and deposit it in their credit union as their regular share. Those who earn any extra money will deposit the amount in the credit union as Saving Deposit. The accrued savings are utilized for disbursing loans to those in need of funds for taking up various developmental programmes and to meet their emergency needs. This helped them to escape from the clutches of the moneylenders who charge exorbitant rates of interest and demand collateral security. Now we are trying to club the credit unions with NABARD, SAFP, and Banks to get more resources to take up various income generation programmes either individually or on a co-operative basis. In order to create an asset base for the SHG and the credit union, they are pooling 20% of the net profit of the credit union as asset base for the credit union of the SHG.
Village feast and Family meet of SHG members: Developmental intervention of KSSS in 80 villages has been highly appreciated. To ensure the sustainability of the programme we organize village feast in called Gramolsav in 80 villages in which all villages irrespective of cast, creed, age and sex participate. The mornings were set apart for awareness and the afternoons to exhibit the cultural talents of the villagers.
As a part of strengthening the SHG members’ families meet of all SHG members were organized in 80 villages. In the family meet SHG members participated along with their life partners. It helped them to have better clarity of life and plan out the programmes together.
SHG has done many social action programmes like campaigns against alcoholism, anti- tobacco programs, campaigns against the discrimination of the differently-abled, protection against abuse of children and women, Dowry Prohibition etc.
KSSS promotes the self help group members to utilize human and material resources within the local community. This way they develop their inborn talents for better utilization. People learn to utilize maximum material resources for the better society and reduce the high level expenses.
The Grama Vikasana Samithi is the apex body which plans, co-ordinates, and implement KSSS programmes, aiming at the integral development of a village. At present 80 Grama Vikasana Samithies are functioning under KSSS. KSSS has a local unit in each of its operational area. Grama Vikasana Samithi includes the members of the local unit, the animator of the village, presidents of all local groups, elected representatives from the local parish, and a representative from the local convent. The parish priest will act as the president of the Grama Vikasana Samithi. Activities of KSSS are decentralized through Grama Vikasana Samithis to groups. Grama Vikasana Samithis main purpose is to oversee the activities of the local self-help groups.
Ensuring the total participation of the people and as a step towards decentralization KSSS has a federation set up for the self help groups. Every SHG has its own office bearers elected in democratic manner. These elected members of different groups elect their representatives in the village level and the village level leaders elect their representatives in the regional level. KSSS has eight regions. The elected representatives of region elect the central level office bearers. Kottayam social service society has a regional federation in every region, consisting of the regional director, regional coordinator and the regional presidents of self help groups.
Details of Community Based Groups
|Sl no||Self Help Group||No. of Groups||No. of Members|
|3||Men Self Help Groups||58||1289|
|4||Senior Citizen Groups||154||3081|
KSSS organized Federation Meeting for SHG leaders at Chaithanya Pastoral Centre,Thellakom. Fr. Sunil Perumanoor (Executive Secretary, KSSS) inaugurated the programme. Fr.Mathews Valiyaputhenpurayal(Asst. Secretary, KSSS), Mr.Sijo Thomas (Programme Manager, KSSS), Mrs. Bessy Jose(Coordinator, KSSS), Mr. Pramuda Nandakumar and Mr. Roy Jacob (Federation Representative) delivered speeches on the occasion that mainly focused on the formulation of Action plan for the sustainability of Self Help Groups and planning for the 21stChaithanya Karshikamela and Annual Get-together of SHGs of KSSS.
KSSS organized a two-day workshop for KSSS Coordinators and animators at Chaithanya Pastoral Centre, Thellakom. Fr. George Vettikattil (Executive Director, Kerala Social Service Forum) inaugurated the programme that aimed to update the skills and knowledge required to discharge the duties and responsibilities of the staff efficiently in the field. ‘Spirituality in social work’, ‘Role of animators in the group work’, ‘Economic Literacy’, ‘Community Based Rehabilitation Programme for Differently-abled’,‘ Resource Mobilization’ and ‘Rights-based Interventions’ were the topics covered in the two day programme. Fr. Geroge Vettikattil, Fr. Jibil Kuzhivelil (Director, Thuvanisa Retreat Centre), Fr. Sunil Perumanoor, Mrs. Bessy Jose (Coordinator), Mrs. Mercy Stephen (Coordinator), Mrs.Mary Philip(Coordinator), Mrs. BabithaT.Jessil (Project Coordinator), Mr. Sijo Thomas (Programme Manager), Sr.Simi DCPB (Special Educator) and Ms. Merlin Tomy(Project Coordinator) dealt the classes. Cultural programmes and fun activities enriched the programme. The Coordinators and animators from Kottayam, Ernakulam, Alappuzha, Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts participated in the programme. The trainees participated enthusiastically in the workshop with an outlook to grow, develop and contribute towards the society and organization.