Mask making helps Bangladesh’s rural women earn livelihood

Amid the tough time of coronavirus, women in Bangladesh’s rural areas are making biodegradable, reusable Ella masks from garment scraps to cope with the pandemic-induced new social lifestyle and ensure livelihoods.

Ella masks, a product of Ella (Eco-friendly low-cost liquid absorbent) Pad, an award-winning social enterprise, uses scraps from the ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh to make saleable items, hiring women who would otherwise be unemployed.

The social enterprise links the rural women with different buyers, institutions and UN agencies to purchase their masks, creating a scope for each of them to earn at least Tk 400 a day.

Hundreds of women involved with the project are being able earn a living when the rate of unemployment is growing in the country due to the fallout of the coronavirus.

Mamunur Rahman, founder of Ella Pad, said their organisation has been trying to help the rural women who produce masks connecting them with micro female entrepreneurs through creating a new supply chain for them.

He said Ella masks are standardised as per the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Mamun said the US Embassy and the different UN bodies and some other institutions have already bought the Ella masks.

US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller recently visited one of the women-owned and operated home businesses tasked with producing the biodegradable masks.

In teaming up with the embassy’s Resilience Working Group (RWG), Ella Mask has produced and distributed more than 6,000 free masks among disadvantaged groups and those in need.

The Embassy’s RWG is a team of employees, both American and locally-employed staff, who brainstorm and make ways to build resilience in their community.

They have recently focused on finding different ways to handle the new social lifestyle brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In August, the RWG held a face mask drawing contest, with the top three winners chosen by an embassy-wide vote. The winning creations were printed onto masks for the embassy community by a local company, Ella Mask.

On September 15, Ambassador Earl Miller met Humphrey Fellow alumnus Mamunur Rahman, founder of Ella Pad and Ella Mask-who assisted the RWG in their contest.