Riot victims stitch back their lives by sewing safety gear
Eighteen-year-old Saina, a resident of Shiv Vihar in northeast Delhi, has had little to do since her house and family’s shop were damaged during a communal riot in February. These days, however, she has an important job to do — stitch personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers to aid their fight against coronavirus (Covid-19) disease.
“I had planned to resume my studies this year as I had to take a break due to my family’s financial situation last year. I couldn’t because of the riots,” said Saina, who goes only by her first name, adding she finished matriculation last year. “When we got the opportunity to stitch PPE kits and do something about the situation in our country, we knew we had to do it.”
The eldest of six siblings, Saina was worried after her father’s e-rickshaw was burnt, home and grocery shop damaged in the riots. While the family was struggling to restart their lives, the Covid-19 disease struck. “We are relying on the ration given to us by the government and various organisations. There isn’t anything else to do. When we got the sewing machines as a part of the rehabilitation drive, we decided to stitch masks and PPE suits during this lockdown.”
Saina and three other women, who lost their houses and livelihood due to the communal riots in February, take turns to use the two sewing machines given to them by a civil society collective, which was working on rehabilitation of riot victims in the area.
Aasif Mujtaba, a PhD scholar at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, who founded the Miles2Smile collective, said, “A local residing in the area, who earlier gave stitching work to these women, got a suggestion from someone that since there is no work and a dearth of PPE kits across the country, these women could be approached for the work.”
A sample kit was provided to these women over a week ago along with raw material. Mujtaba says that so far, they have made over 35,000 masks and over 200 full-body PPE kits. “We have now provided them with better quality material (70 gsm) and work on it will begin from Tuesday. Some of the kits have been distributed to volunteers working in the area. We have also approached local police personnel in various areas and will distribute kits to them as well. If there is a demand, we can also sell these it to those in need,” Mujtaba said, adding that the kits would be sterilised before distribution.
The remuneration for the labour remains in question. “Right now, we just wanted to help. If there is a demand for more suits and we are paid for the work, it will help us as well,” said Saina, before heading off to finish her day’s work.