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Kudumbashree was conceived as a joint programme of the Government of Kerala and Nabard implemented through Community Development Societies (CDSs) of Poor Women, serving as the community wing of Local Governments.

Kudumbashree is formally registered as the "State Poverty Eradication Mission" (SPEM), a society registered under the Travancore Kochi Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Act 1955. It has a governing body chaired by the State Minister of LSG. There is a state mission with a field officer in each district. This official structure supports and facilitates the activities of the community network across the state.

Kudumbashree differs from conventional programmes in that it perceives poverty not just as the deprivation of money, but also as the deprivation of basic rights. The poor need to find a collective voice to help claim these rights.

The grassroots of Kudumbashree are Neighbourhood Groups (NHG in short) that send representatives to the ward level Area Development Societies (ADS). The ADS sends its representatives to the Community Development Society (CDS), which completes the unique three-tier structure of Kudumbashree. Today, there are 2.58 lakhs NHGs, over 19,854 ADSs and 1073 CDSs in Kudumbashree.

It is this network that brings women to the Grama Sabhas and helps them bring the needs of the poor to the attention of the local governments. The Community Development Societies are also very active in Government programmes and play significant roles in development activities ranging from socio-economic surveys and enterprise development to community management and social audit.

Though its efforts to engage women in civil society in development issues and opportunities, Kudumbashree in association with the local self government of Kerala is charting out new meaning and possibilities for local economic development and citizen centric governance.