Published: 30th March 2020
These Kerala women are making 300 cloth masks a day to deal with the mask shortage during COVID-19 outbreak
Jeevanam is an initiative by a group of women who are now stitching cloth masks to meet with the mask shortage
With the lockdown in place for 21 days, the sight of people wearing masks is common now. Each one of us is wearing one now, and the stores are running low on stocks. Jeevanam, an all-women group in Kerala, the first state to report the cases of Coronavirus in India, is making cloth masks to help with the situation.
Jeevanam was formed after the Kerala floods of 2018 to help the people recover from the natural calamity, says the group's co-ordinator, Deepa Nair Venugopal. "Our goal was to help the flood victims with needed utensils, groceries, and so on. But, for a long run, we decided to bring together the women folks of the flood-affected areas together, and that's how Jeevanam became a stitching unit," says Deepa, who returned to Kerala from the US early 2018.
The mask made by Jeevanam members
With the support of the Sacred Heart College's NSS Alumni Fraternity, the first unit of Jeevanam started functioning at Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai Memorial Government UP School. And who were the tailors? The parents of students at the school! This mostly included single mothers and parents of special kids. The network gradually spread and their stitching units are now at two schools in Alappuzha and one in Kottayam. They started with recycling clothes into bags and now to meet the need for masks, they've started making them after watching online video tutorials. "We also kept the green masks (surgical mask) as a sample and started making them. One of our clients sent us a video lesson of making masks, and we followed the process," Deepa says and adds, "We are currently reusing cotton fabric from clothes to make 2-ply masks. It takes around 30 women to make around 200 to 300 masks per day."
Jeevanam started with making cloth bags
After the country was put on lockdown from March 24, the women have been working from home like the rest of us. "The ones who have sewing machine are continuing their work sitting at home. Most of our clients gave raw materials as well. So, we can supply the needful," she says. The team also managed to distribute a few masks for free to the public. "We let our clients pay as they wish as it is not about the business right now," she adds. Deepa also shares that these women conduct classes to make masks at Kudambashree units in the nearby wards. "However, we make sure that they take precautionary measures seriously as every life is important to us," she adds.
Deepa Nair Venugopal
Since most of the women are from a poorer background they are in a rut after the country closed down almost a week ago. Jeevanam helps them as well. "We pay for their groceries. We tell them to purchase from a particular grocery shop in their locality, and we transfer the amount directly to the shop's account. Hence, there is no need for anyone to physically handle all this. We even recharge their phones as the shops are unavailable now. Most of them don't come up and tell us what they need. We try to understand what they would need the most and provide them with the same," tells Deepa. Discussing their future plans, Deepa shares, "We are planning to get necessary permissions to make hand sanitisers and distribute them for free."