Santal women prepare masks to meet community demand amid Covid-19

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GAIBANDHA, Dec 30, 2020 (BSS) – As panic gripped among the commoners in the emergence of coronavirus pandemic, people were desperately looking for masks to keep themselves safe from the invisible enemy.

But, that time, collecting masks for them to use to avoid coronavirus infection was a hard task as there was a scarcity of mask across the country.

Managing masks for the ethnic Santal minority was a huge challenging task too due to their limited access to healthcare facilities and resources.

“When we first heard about the disease (COVID-19), we got panicked, thinking of how we remain safe from coronavirus,” said Santal women Monika Henrom, a mother of two.

She said people were being exposed to coronavirus and they are dying of COVID-19.

“We were very concern about our children. Later, we got informed that we can remain safe from COVID-19 by following health guidelines – using mask and washing hands with soap for 20 seconds,” Henrom said.

“But, there was a scarcity of mask in Gobindaganj. We have no financial capacity to buy masks too. That’s why we started preparing masks at our homes to meet our own demand,” she said.

The Santal woman said a face mask is still being sold at Taka 5 to Taka 10 but it is “a huge money for us as our income is severely hit hard by the pandemic here”.

So, she said, they now collect the unused pieces of clothes from tailors and prepare masks at their respective homes.

“The women of all the Santal households (about 120 families) of Bodhghari, Tolpara and Tallapara villages of Gobindaganj upazila are involved in preparing masks,” said Adari Murmu, another Santal woman.

“We use masks and distribute those among our neighbours (free of cost) so that we all can remain safe from coronavirus infection,” she said.

Probir Chakraborty, executive director of ABALAMBAN, a local partner of UNDP, said most of the Santal people are landless and live in extreme poverty.

“Their livelihood depends on agriculture. They earn hand to mouth. That is why they have no adequate financial capacity to buy virus preventive materials,” he said.

With support from the UNDP’s Human Rights Programme, Chakraborty said, a little financial assistance has been provided for the Santal women in preparing masks so that they save their families as well as community from the lethal virus.

AKM Mahbubul Alam Mukul, project coordinator of ABALAMBAN, said now the ethnic women have been playing a vital role in preventing COVID-19 in the Santal community.

“The Santal women have been preparing masks at their homes. Their family members are using those and homemade masks are being distributed among their neighbours, resulting zero COVID-19 infection in the Santal community,” he said.