Saving the Livelihoods of Tailors in Kalburgi District via Face Mask Production

India’s garment industry, which employs around 45 million people, has been suffering dramatically since the COVID-19 government imposed lockdown, which took effect on the 24th of March 2020. Strict social distancing rules meanthat millions of people have been unable to go to work, from large scale garment factories to small tailoring businesses based out of home. This makes tailors one of many vulnerable groups of people in India today. In order to utilise the skills of these now idle workers and to meet the surge in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) amidst the crisis, Vrutti, a livelihoods nonprofit, and Mudhol Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) developed a scheme to train and employ workers from three villages in Karnataka to produce protective face masks.

Across the three villages of Kalburgi District, Sedam Taluk and Mudhol, there are approximately 100 self-help groups (SHG), with around 15-20 members each, most of whom rely on tailoring as their primary form of livelihood. Vrutti and Mudhol FPO identified around 40 tailors from across 50 of these SHGs and  trained them on sewing face masks. The local police department granted movement passes to those commuting to attend the training. During the training, social distancing practices were mandatory, as was use of PPE such as face masks and gloves. The materials used during training were sourced from Taluk and Zilla panchayat and Sanjivani federations. Participants who did not own sewing machines were provided with low interest loans to purchase a machine for themselves.

While SHG members were being 

trained, a number of actors – Vrutti’s district level business auxiliary unit, agri-business accelerator Jagadeesh and one financi

al inclusion officer – worked to obtain bulk orders from L&T Constructions Bangalore. On April 19th, 2020, L&T Constructions placed an order for 10,000 face masks.

Vrutti supplied the SHG workers with the necessary materials – thread and 50 metres of cotton cloth – and requested that the work be finished in one week. Among the 40 workers assigned this week, all 10,000 of the face masks were made and delivered back to Vrutti within 5 days. Within another 3 days, the masks were ironed, packed and dispatched, with the delivery done by DTDC courier service.

The SHG members earned an average of 4000 INR from this project. 


Contributors: Mamatha V , Tishya Desai and Jagadeeshwari.


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