Deepanwita Gita Niyogi Sulochana Sahu, the member of a woman’s self-help group (SHG) in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh, has found a new vocation; that of making beautiful embroidered cotton masks in bright colours like blue and yellow. “Ever since Covid-19 struck, women members of my group have been making masks. But we stopped after sometimes due to the lack of proper marketing facilities,” Sahu said.
This is when Arya Prerna Samiti (APS), a non-profit, came to the rescue of these women and inspired them to continue by giving access to all the materials needed to make masks, like cloth pieces and stitching materials.“We are paid Rs 100 per day individually. Two SHGs are involved in the initiative and there are 24 members in total,” Sahu added.
Sahu also leads 150 SHGs in Bastar district formed under the National Rural Livelihood Mission, a Government of India programme, to alleviate poverty in rural areas.“We are making masks every day in the safety of our homes due to social distancing. Initially, we were trained for four days,” she said.
Mohit Arya, the founder of APS, said an initiative called Tribal Tokni has been started under which products made by these SHGs will be marketed.“We pay more to these women than the standard market rates. For stitching the masks, we are paying them Rs 8 to Rs 10 whereas the market rate is Rs 4 to Rs 5,” Arya said.Preeti Arya, who is coordinating the entire process, said as masks are in demand we are creating attractive designs.
Recently, an order for 500 masks has been placed. “The masks are made of cotton as it is mostly preferred by people, but we also can try khadi,” Preeti said.About 2000 masks have already been made and more SHGs may be involved in future. The masks are priced at Rs 50 to Rs 100.