Lockdown Heroes: Earning A Livelihood For Herself And Others Through Making Masks
Yasmin Nisar's team in Dharwad has made 30,000 masks, providing livelihoods to women who could run their families, thanks to it, in these hard times
Yasmin Nisar of Karnataka’s Dharwad used to make her living by tailoring clothes. The coronavirus lockdown meant that her business almost came to a standstill and so did the livelihood of people who used to depend on her for work. But without losing heart, Nisar, 46, worked her way out of the mess. She is now able to provide employment for around 20 women in her slum. Their sole job: making face masks.
Thanks to her, the group has made 30,000 masks in the last two months. They are earning ₹5,000 a month for their efforts. This at a time when there are hardly any jobs! "I could have managed my expenses, but I was feeling bad about the women who used to work for me. These were the people I had taught tailoring," says Yasmin to Reader's Digest.
Yasmin had previously worked for several NGOs in town, and she took it upon herself to do something about the new crisis many women in her locality were faced with. "Many of them are the only earners in their families and their children would go without food, if they had no earnings. That was not something I wanted," says the single mother of three children.
She started speaking to various organizations and her determination paid off when she got in touch with Deshpande Foundation, an NGO that works in the field of women's education and welfare. "In the past, I had supplied them with bags and other materials. So I told them that besides the people who worked for me, there were other women in my locality who had been badly affected by the lockdown."
Incidentally, the foundation too was planning to distribute masks among individuals and organizations by the thousands. When Yasmin was asked how many masks she could make and provide them, she grabbed the opportunity by saying that she could make as many as they wanted.
"I didn't know how many I could make, but my main aim was to get as many orders possible, so that the women in my area could gain some kind of employment," she says.
This leap of faith paid off. They started with seven women in early April; now, there are more than 20 women. Yasmin says that their solidarity is so strong that whenever somebody falls sick, others take up the onus of making the extra masks so that the absentee doesn't lose on earning money.
Yasmin says that not giving up has paid off. She doesn’t step into the limelight, though, and refuses to highlight her own role. Instead, she simply remarks, "There was darkness all around when there was no work, and now these women feel that they can achieve anything." We doff our hats to this humble, exemplary role-model.