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


Due to the impact of COVID-19, there was a steep decline in the sale of “gamusa”, the traditional Assamese festive fabric which is usually in demand during the Bihu celebrations (Assamese New Year). In this situation, Aide et Action helped the communities reinvent the use of gamusa as masks to fight the corona epidemic. A fruitful initiative!

In India, the Coronavirus crisis has had devastating effects, both in health and economic terms, especially among the poorest. The suspension of all activities deprives millions of people of their sources of income and puts sectors of activity in danger. On the occasion of the Bihu celebrations (Assamese new year), the weavers’ community is usually very busy. But this year, the lockdown prevented the festivities from taking place and therefore dropped orders for gamusa, usually used for costumes.

Empower the communities

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 therefore initiated the production of masks, using gamusa, in order to make them available to communities and to promote alternate rural livelihoods in the area.

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

A win-win initiative

Similarly in the neighboring state of Meghalaya, the tailoring sector of our vocational training program (iLEAD Umsning) received an order from District Commerce and Industries Centre (DCIC) to stitch 3000 masks. ILEAD students are very efficient and sew as quickly as possible to meet demand as soon as possible. These masks will then be distributed distributed for free among health workers, police and the public.

To meet the demand on time, our iLEAD trainees are stitching the masks in shift basis. This way they can work for more hours and ensure that the masks are delivered on time”, says Kankana Borah, Program Officer – Aide et Action Guwahati.

In Udaipur, our iLEAD alumni efforts to stitch masks and distribute to the people of the village were appreciated by the Sri Ashok Gehlot, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Rajasthan.

An effort appreciated

In addition, in 14 villages across Indore, Dhar and Dhevas districts in Madhya Pradesh, self-help groups and associations of women entrepreneurs, supported by Aide et Action as part of our empowerment project, are also mobilized. 100,000 masks are currently in production. Among them, 25,000 will be distributed free of charge to all villagers in the 14 villages and the remaining masks will be distributed among the district administration. “Along with the washable masks, we are also providing sanitation kit to each family which includes handwash, soap, sanitizer, and sanitary napkins,” says Ayush Raj, Program Officer – Aide et Action, Bhopal.the district administration.