COVID-19: With the support of Aide et Action, Indian communities make masks

Photo credit: Aide et Action

While the New Year celebrations in the state of Assam, India, could not take place due to the COVID-19 crisis, Aide et Action decided to take advantage of the situation by encouraging the production of masks using the fabric initially ordered for the festivities. A successful initiative!  

In India, the Coronavirus crisis is having devastating effects, both in health and economic terms, particularly for the poorest. The suspension of all activity is depriving millions of people of their sources of income and putting industries at risk. The weaving community is usually in high demand during the Bihu celebration in Assam. But this year, strict confinement has prevented the festivities from taking place and has led to a drop in orders for suede cloth, usually used for costumes.

Building community capacity 

At the same time, the demand for masks has increased considerably and it has become very difficult to meet the ever increasing needs. Taking advantage of the situation, Aide et Action has therefore initiated the production of masks, using this fabric, in order to make as much as possible available to the communities and to promote other rural livelihoods in the region.

Our teams contacted one of the two self-help groups in the area and shared the idea with some of its members, such as Yasmine and Saleha. This mother-daughter duo then negotiated with other community members who agreed to provide them with fabric. After watching a quick video tutorial, the mother and daughter, aged 56 and 32 respectively, took up sewing and now produce 75 masks a day each. Their production is now part of the hygiene kits distributed by Aide et Action to children and their families as part of the emergency response to COVID-19. In addition, our association is providing support to facilitate the marketing and sale of the masks to the nearest hospitals, pharmacies and government institutions. Although this is still a pilot initiative, the other self-help group has already started to implement it in different villages. 

A win-win initiative

Similarly, in the neighbouring state of Meghalaya, the sewing section of our vocational training programme (iLEAD Umsning) received an order from the district trade and industry centre to produce 3,000 masks. The iLEAD students are very efficient and are sewing as quickly as possible to meet the demand. The masks will then be distributed free of charge to health workers, police and the public. 

" To meet the demand in time, our iLEAD trainees sew the masks in teamsexplains Kankana Borah, head of the programme. In this way, they can rotate and thus work more efficiently. This ensures that the masks are delivered on time. "In Udaipur, the efforts of our iLEAD alumni to make and distribute masks to the villagers were appreciated by Sri Ashok Gehlot, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan.

A welcome effort 

In addition, in 14 villages in the districts of Indore, Dhar and Dhevas in Madhya Pradesh, self-help groups and associations of women entrepreneurs, supported by Aide et Action as part of our empowerment project, are also being mobilized. Thus, 100,000 masks are currently being produced. Among them, 25,000 will be distributed free of cost to all the villagers in the 14 villages and the remaining masks will be distributed to the district administration. " In addition to the washable masks, we also provide each family with a sanitation kit containing soap, disinfectant and sanitary towels "says Ayush Raj, programme officer in Bhopal.

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