As the COVID pandemic continues to spread, there is an acute shortage of basic protective equipment like face masks. The Indian government has made it mandatory for every person who ventures out of the house to wear a face mask to protect herself and others.
SEWA Federation decided to get face masks manufactured through the Abodana Cooperative. In pre-COVID times, the Federation used to get all its sewing work done on its premises in Ahmedabad city. After the lockdown, it was not possible for the members to move out of their homes. So the cooperative decided to get the masks made by the women’s in their homes. However, the members would have to be trained to manufacture the masks as per the design. This was a new experience for the Cooperative – to give home-based work to its members!
The cooperative first developed a video where a member demonstrated how to manufacture the mask complete with measurements and design specifics. This video was sent to four members who had expertise in sewing. Each of these four first mastered the stitching of masks and then identified other women around them who could cut and stitch as per the requirements. A total of 15 members were identified and trained in stitching these masks. As the demand for masks increased, non-members were also identified and trained, making a total of 42 women employed in this task. Not surprisingly, the non-members now all want to become members of the cooperative.
The raw material is supplied to the women in their homes by the supervisors in their areas. These supervisors also do quality control and collect the stitched masks from the women. Each woman is able to make about 100-150 masks a day, and is paid Rs. 3-4 per mask depending upon whether it is a two-layer or three-layer mask. The money earned by the women is deposited weekly into their bank accounts. In these times when many workers have lost their jobs, the regular employment provided to these women is crucial for them.
The masks are currently being supplied to hospitals, to other businesses who are falling short on manufacturing their own and are also being distributed free of cost to those in need.
“SEWA has made a kit with an ayurvedic sanitizer and face masks which is being distributed to needy households in Ahmedabad city. Everybody is required to wear a mask but many cannot afford them. Also, we are training people about the importance of hygiene during this pandemic and distributing sanitizers along with the masks.”Bhartiben