Meet the Mkazi tailors who championed the mask project

The COVID-19 pandemic created ‘’interesting times’’ for small business owners and community-based organizations. Many different entities have collaborated to create lasting change and innovative ideas to address the pandemic.

As soon as the first lockdown was declared in Uganda in March 2020, Motiv, a creative space created to further unlock the potential of the young Ugandan population and Mkazipreneur, a platform that promotes qualitative and quantitative women entrepreneurship partnered to make Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) masks for civilians to protect themselves against Covid19 while providing opportunity for talent – the tailors.

We had a candid conversation with some of the tailors who participated in this project. They share why they chose to be a part of it and what this means to them.

“La’leti” Nambalirwa (Lead tailor)

When the Mkazipreneur team contacted me to be part of the initiative, the country was panic-stricken. At the time, people were only looking at interventions by medics. I welcomed the idea because it gave a chance to ordinary people like tailors/fashion designers to contribute to the fight against Covid-19. The fact that the idea was to work with many different tailors also inspired me to be a part of it. The research put into the choice of material we needed to make effective masks was a learning experience.

At a time when the pharmaceutical masks were running out, and other single-layered ineffective masks flooding the market, our masks were a real intervention since they are now being used by hospitals. Thanks to Mkazipreneur and MoTiv! Businesswise, this initiative opened the eyes of many tailors to the fact that they are valuable players and their skills can be useful way beyond garment construction.

As a mobilizer, I have witnessed tailors’ livelihoods improve since they were able to earn through making these masks.

Claire Namukwaya

The masks we make are acting as a measure to limit the spread of the virus, so I knew that I would be helping people protect themselves from harm which gives me a sense of fulfillment because I have played a part in a great initiative. It’s nice to be part of something that brings positive change to our country. The masks are reusable. The pharmaceutical masks are expensive ire unusable. On the other hand, the masks we make are washable and don’t wear out after cleaning which makes them hygienic and affordable to low-income earners.

We, as tailors were provided with an opportunity to make money during a period when the economy is at a standstill. This has given us financial support and opened our eyes to the small opportunities around us.

Aryaija Aliad

I chose to be a part of this initiative because I wanted to help out. Being a fashion designer, I wanted to do something for my country too during this epidemic. Luckily enough, I came across the poster and I called in to participate. I am really glad to be a part of this initiative. Making these masks for the people who need them most for protection and safety reasons is what it’s all about. Currently, the whole world is fighting a pandemic, and I believe we should all try to help out in whichever way we can.

The lesson I have learned regarding business is to save and save some more for a rainy day. We should also be prepared all the time for any kind of eventualities.

Ritah Nomugisha

I chose to be part of this initiative to put my sewing and design skills to use, as well as be of help to the community as opposed to just being home doing nothing. First and foremost, the pandemic has put a lot of things and lives on hold. We were not ready for this either. This has taught me to always be ready and prepared for anything, and should an opportunity to help people be placed before you, don’t hesitate but go for it. Be a solution-based person. Most of all save. The future is uncertain.

In addition to lessons learned, Show off what you do. I have stepped out of the house wearing some of the masks I made and got clients after they inquired where I got one. This also goes for a sensitization measure.

Nabukalu Barbra

This is a good initiative to help sustain my businesses because currently, most people are out of business. This was an opportunity to earn some money to provide food for myself and my family. The World Health Organization has encouraged us to wear masks as a measure to reduce the spread of the virus. This is an opportunity to contribute to the fight against COVID-19.

I have also learned a new skill of making masks.

Motiv is a creative space by Innovation Village to further unlock the potential of the Ugandan young population. Motiv consists of creative collaborators keen to discover new voices and help shine a light on creative talent from across the country. The major goal is to build a world-class creative community in Uganda

Mkazipreneur is an impact-driven community organization that was started to promote qualitative and quantitative women-led small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) through connecting, celebrating, and empowering women entrepreneurs in Africa