The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi‘s Enabling Women of Kamand (EWOK) Society has collaborated with women based in Himachal’s villages to created reusable and washable cotton masks to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The initiative is called Maitri Mask Abhiyaan (friendship mask campaign).
Under this initiative, women are being made aware of how to protect themselves, their families, and localities from coronavirus. IIT Mandi’s EWOK society is also spreading awareness in the community, including panchayats of Kamand, Katindhi, Kataula, and Navlaya about correct usage and sanitisation of cotton masks.
The initiative started with four villages and has expanded to 15 villages now, according to the institute. “Over 500 masks have already been provided to companies employing migrant workers and more orders are in progress. The current production rate of the masks is 150 per day and will scale up to 300-400 per day with an increase in orders. The expected number of beneficiaries under the Maitri Mask Abhiyaan is 2500 to 3500,” the institute said in an official statement.
Speaking about the initiative, Dr Priscilla Gonsalves, Chief Advisor, EWOK Society, IIT Mandi, said, “It’s great to see the way the local community has pulled together to protect our health. When EWOK was having difficulty finding material, a local Chirag Vaidya offered to supply cloth for the first 150 masks free of charge. Local women also agreed to donate their first day’s labour to the cause.”
Under this initiative, IIT Mandi and EWOK Society are sourcing and providing close-knit cotton to the Mahila mandals (women groups) and guiding them in making effective cloth masks in compliance with the recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA, and the government of India.
The masks are available in two and three-layer versions. These masks have been tested at IIT Mandi’s Multiscale Fabrication and Nanotechnology lab. The masks have more than 50 per cent efficiency for catching droplets and dust, according to the IIT.
EWOK is also trying to establish a model in which it evaluates the skills and aspirations of rural women based upon which a personalised plan can be prepared to groom their skill set. Since its inception, EWOK has supported 12 women entrepreneurs and as a result generated employment for more than 65 people of the Kamand region, the institute informed.