Working together, from a distance: Women in Kosovo sew almost 200,000 masks for distribution.
This spring, 177 women and 23 men from different communities across Kosovo worked together towards a singular goal: creating thousands of protective cloth masks for distribution throughout Kosovo.
Whether from their kitchen tables, back porches, or storefronts, the collective impact made by these women and men working individually, yet in tandem, has been enormous. Almost 200,000 face masks were sewed by these dedicated women and men from across Kosovo and distributed to those needing cost-free protective wear.
The project was supported by UNMIK in collaboration with Community Development Institute (CODE) NGO in Gračanica/Graçanicë and three women-led NGOs,: NGO Lady in Pristina, Association of Women Returnees NAŠ DOM in Novo Brdo/Novobërdë, and Women Wellness Centre in Pejë/Peć. The initiative was envisioned as a means of engaging the drive and talents of predominantly women, creating an income-generating opportunity while producing gear to protect people in Kosovo from COVID-19.
A total of 200 women and men from Albanian, Serbian, Bosniak, Turkish, and Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities participated, with the masks they created distributed across 37 municipalities. Of the almost 200,000 masks made, packages of 10 masks per family were distributed.
Bringing together participants from across Kosovo contributed to a sense of community building, said Sladjana Djordjevic, a mask maker from the Serbian community: "I had a wonderful feeling that I belonged to a group and was doing something useful for society, something important for myself and my family. The engagement helped me maintain my mental health, and to continue to renew and expand my knowledge in the tailoring trade.”
Javiera Thais Santa Cruz, Gender Advisor for UNMIK, notes that the aim of the project was to bring together women from across Kosovo: “Even though social distancing prevented the (mostly) women participants from working together physically on this project, we were able to engage women in their homes towards a common goal and build up their skillset for future work.”
According to Sanija Murati of Pristina-based NGO Lady, “COVID-19 pandemic caused a lot of troubles, mostly for women that are heads of households, single mothers, and women with disabilities. We managed to include the most vulnerable categories of women in this project and NGO Lady involved 50 women from the most vulnerable groups, minority communities.”
For Besmire Bashota who participated in the project from home, the initiative provided economic relief for women like herself: “In these pandemic conditions where many businesses closed and women remained at home, without work, this support from UNMIK was very good as it enabled women to work and make some profit,” she said.
Ms. Murati further emphasized how that net result will benefit women: “The impact has been positive and we hope we will have much more similar activities because these groups of women don't have many opportunities to be supported and this is definitely one of the ways they can earn for themselves and their families.”
The project has inspired Jasmina Arsic, to start her own sewing business with some of the women she collaborated on this project with: “It was hard, it was inspiring, it was great! I was delighted to be given the opportunity to somehow fight the Covid 19 virus, which in a way I made my contribution. The support of the UN Mission in Kosovo to our individual efforts to counter the spread of the pandemic, has united eight women in the company “Fashion Studio Jefimija” and now, together, we try to develop a business from our craft.”
UNMIK has focused on engaging women throughout the pandemic in recognition of the integral role they play in supporting their communities, but also the unique burden they have shouldered during the pandemic, as discussed at the Global Open Day on Women, Peace and Security in Kosovo, she added.
* Read more about UNMIK’s previous similar projects here:
- Mobilising multi-ethnic support in the face of a common enemy: Youth NGO produced 15,000 face shields for frontline workers
- Physical and financial health during COVID-19: Women’s economic empowerment project provides 24,000 much-needed face masks
- Printing their way to a safer Kosovo: Young innovators 3D print face shields for health workers