Shukria sews about 100 masks a day to help prevent the coronavirus (COVID-19) from spreading to Nakarabad, her hometown of about 1,700 people located in northern Afghanistan’s Jawzjan province.
The 24-year-old woman is part of a growing cohort of women across Afghanistan who have turned to producing masks to meet the demand triggered by the threat of the virus in their communities. What convinced Shukria to take action is an awareness campaign about the coronavirus that the Citizens’ Charter, Afghanistan’s flagship development program, organized in her village.
“During the campaign, we learned that we had to take the danger of the coronavirus seriously,” she says. “One of the ways to protect against and combat this deadly contagious disease is wearing masks.”
When they realized that masks were in short supply, Shukria and four other villagers decided to sew and give away masks to residents in the village. So far, she has distributed nearly 1,000 masks to neighbors and villagers who cannot afford to buy protective equipment. Shukria now intends to train more women in the village to stitch and sew their way to helping defeat the coronavirus.
COVID-19 has hit Afghanistan hard. The last official tally reported around 30,000 COVID-19 cases and over 600 deaths. Low education levels’ limited access to information, water and sanitation; and a weak health system make it difficult for the country to control the rapid spread of the virus. The government of Afghanistan has redeployed two key development programs to curb the impact of the virus in rural and urban communities.
The Citizens’ Charter and the Women’s Economic Empowerment – Rural Development Project (WEE-RDP) are at the forefront of running public awareness campaigns in rural areas. The Independent Directorate of Local Governance is responsible for the Charter’s campaigns in cities and urban areas.