Making face masks help women earn livelihood during lockdown

The COVID-19 outbreak had a widespread effect on the rural economies. It has affected household incomes, rural businesses and has brought many families on the verge of helplessness. But as it is said, admist all darkness, there is a speck of light which acts as a ray of hope. This could be totally validated with the efforts made by the Gram Panchayat of village Koba in Anandpuri block of Banswara district for accelerating the income generating activities of women in the village. Along with this, the local self governments were in frontline to serve the people of the village and help them survive the difficult situations during the lockdown.

Shanti Ninama, a labourer who fulfilled her basic needs by engaging herself in labour work got unemployed due to lockdown. She had a small piece of land but the income through the land couldn’t suffice the needs of her family. Ultimately she had to look for other sources of income. With support of Vaagdhara team and the awareness campaigns organized by the local government and health workers of the village, the elder son of Shanti Ninama named Gauri Shankar who is just 14 years old understood the importance of masks during the pandemic. He got the idea of making masks as it was the current demand of the situation. Gauri successfully persuaded her mother for making mask and selling it.

Shanti was well-versed with the art of sewing and she decided to make her skill use for an alternative source of income.  She started making masks with the help of her family. Her son gave the proper shape to the masks prepared by her. Her husband and sons helped her in selling the masks. By the end of the month of May, the family was able to sell around 100 masks for Rs.10 each. Around 40-50 Mask were distributed for free. The cloth and string were bought from the nearby market.

The entire episode came to the knowledge of Gram Panchayat and they took the leadership in amplifying the activity. They also tried to engage other women of the community in the mask-making activity and were successful on their part. They started awareness campaigns in the village rigorously on the importance of the masks during pandemic and also spread the information in other Panchayats. These efforts got successful and the income of the women increased during the pandemic. The health workers of the nearby Panchayats also started purchasing masks from Shanti and other women of the village for distributing it to the community members who are in need.

The awareness campaigns that were held regularly during the lockdown were the inspiration message for making the masks in bulk. In selling the mask to the community the whole idea is that the community shall be safe in pandemic situation occurred due to COVID-19 and safety equipments shall be easily accessible in the remote region of Tribal belt.

The leadership of the Gram Panchayat and their proactive role in linking the women entrepreneurs with mass population acted as a boon for the community. From not having able to earn the amount for minimum subsistence to earning sufficient was a major accomplishment for the women of the village. Moreover the women also distributed the mask without charging any cost for the same creating an example that the aim is not just about making profit but also to serve their own community members.