As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads rapidly, global monitoring organizations have called for everyone stepping outdoors to wear a protective mask. Amidst the distressing shortage of masks, here’s an upbeat story of how capacity built by AIF’s MAST program is ensuring that women from the rural and remote Himalayan region of Tehri Garhwal in Uttarakhand continue to have access to their livelihoods and are, as a micro-enterprise, engaged in mask production.

In an effort to create livelihoods for women living in remote villages in Uttarakhand, AIF’s MAST program supported by the Shahnaz Taplin Women Empowerment Fund, provided skilling to women in tailoring and food preservation techniques over the last couple of years. The management team of AIF’s implementation partner for this project, Mount Valley Development Association (MVDA) realized that due to transportation issues, it would be a long time before communities in the mountains would have access to masks. In an extraordinary gesture, they organized for raw material and reached out to the women beneficiaries who had received tailoring skills who reacted positively and immediately began production of face masks at the Training cum Production Center (TPC) in Tehri Garhwal.

These hill women have suddenly found themselves cutting, pleating, and sewing non-woven fabric into protective face masks. In just the past week, they have assembled more than 1800 masks. The SDM (Sub Divisional Magistrate) of Ghansali town in New Tehri, impressed with MVDA’s quick action and recognizing the need for face masks in communities of Pokhal to Magron villages, has given a go ahead to use the TPC for the production of face masks. For testing purposes, 20 masks were given to the Primary Health Center (PHC) and a few more have been distributed to essential service providers such as police officers and bank officials.

Till date, they have produced 1800 masks, with the capacity to make 300 units daily. The plan is to produce 5000 masks for distribution within the community. With additional support, they would be able to augment their capacity to 20,000 face masks. Support this initiative and ensure that livelihoods are sustained by contributing to #AIFCOVID19Response.

As Director of Communications and Advocacy, Rowena Kay Mascarenhas holds the global responsibility for overseeing the development and implementation of AIF’s marketing, communications, and advocacy strategies across the Head Office, Country Office and Regional Offices.

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