Artisans switch to mask making

In Mithapur, a small town on the Gujarat coast, 15 artisans from the Rabari tribe bend over sewing machines. But instead of intricately embroidered apparel and home furnishings for Women on Wings’ partner Okhai, the artisans are working to finish a batch of 4,000 masks. “Once they are ready we put them in pressure cookers and sterilize them,” says Kirti Poonia, Okhai head.

Necessity is the mother of invention
Partners of Women on Wings who normally produce textile and handicraft items, are now supporting the battle against Covid-19. There being no exhibitions or online sales of their regular handcrafted products till at least May 3, the social entrepreneurs found other means to generate income for themselves and their artisans. Next to Okhai, also Women on Wings’ partners Action Center for Transformation, Fabric Plus, GCVS, Manjari Foundation, Moral Fibre, Rangsutra Crafts, Sadhna – a Women’s Handicraft Enterprise and Tisser Rural Handicrafts are producing face masks and other medical kits. The partners are connected to support each other with supply and demand of masks.

India’s total lockdown
India’s national government extended the total lockdown with two weeks, from April 15 to May 3, 2020. The production of fabrics – spinning, weaving, dyeing, printing. processing, tailoring – has stopped. Also online sales are not possible because deliveries in India are only permitted for so-called ‘essential’ products. Many of Women on Wings’ partners have started campaigns to get work for their artisans, like making face masks, or cooking food, or are doing fundraising campaigns to support in their livelihoods.

Picture: Kirti Poonia, Okhai head