Indigenous Catholic women are making face masks in their leisure time to distribute among poor villagers for free in northern Bangladesh during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some 50 women from three villages in the Gobindaganj area of Gaibandha district, about 240 kilometers from capital Dhaka, have been making masks from clothes since April. The area is covered by Our Lady of Sorrow Catholic Church of Mariampur under Dinajpur Diocese. Each day these women make some 500 masks during their leisure period with logistical backing from Obolombon (Recourse), a local NGO, according to Dipti Murmu, a Santal Catholic and project officer of the organization. “We took this initiative as a part of increasing awareness among people during the pandemic. We found indigenous people had no masks and we know they don’t have money to buy masks. But most need to go out of their homes for work every day. We organized these women and trained them and now they are working on their own,” Murmu, 30, told UCA News.
Thousands of poor villagers have received free masks, she noted, adding that they have a target to increase the number of women to produce more masks and sell them in markets so that they can offer some money to women who have been working voluntarily so far. Tereza Soren, 19, a Santal Catholic and an 11th grade student, has been making masks for two months. “Most of the people in our villages are poor farmers and farm workers. I found it a good initiative as masks can be used for personal use and given to those in need,” she told UCA News “There is good demand for masks due to the pandemic, so selling them would bring money for us.” Father Samson Marandy, parish priest of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, hailed the women for the initiative and promised to support them. "These women are doing great deeds. Masks are not available in village markets even if you have money. It is really great that they have taken the initiative to make masks and even to offer them to people for free,” Father Marandy, 65, also a Santal, told UCA News. The parish, one of the oldest and largest in the diocese, has over 7,300 indigenous Catholics in some 50 villages in Dinajpur and Gaibandha districts. Bangladesh’s government has made wearing masks mandatory for all outside their homes. The deadly virus has infected 234,889 people and killed 3,083, according to government data.
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