Sewing ateliers participate in COVID-19 response

Date: Thursday, May 7, 2020

Mariam Tskhovrebasvhili is sewing colorful face masks in her atelier; Photo: Nini Oboladze
Mariam Tskhovrebashvili is sewing colorful face masks in her atelier; Photo: Nini Oboladze

Mariam Tskhovrebasvhili finished sewing her last dress on 18 March. She had 30 more orders awaiting her but all were cancelled. COVID-19 was already prescribing new rules, and nobody cared about clothing any more.

But spring in Georgia is the time when people start preparing for end-of-school celebrations, and during that time Mariam is usually busy getting orders in May and June. This year, however, everything is different. “The virus has hampered a lot of businesses all around,” notes Mariam, who lives in Tkibuli, Imereti region and has her own sewing atelier. “As it turns out, my husband has lost his source of income too. We have five children, so I didn’t have the right to sit idle. I realized that it was critical to take control of these changes.”

It did not take her long to come up with a solution. Like many countries around the world, Georgia has seen an acute shortage of face masks due to the increased demand. Mariam thought this deficit could be addressed by face masks made of fabric. She learned the guidelines on how to produce face masks and initially made 30 samples as an experiment. Then she informed customers about the new product. She soon discovered that her initiative surpassed her expectations.

“There was such a response that every single face mask was sold the very first day. Plenty of orders were made. My decision convinced me that it is most important for businesses to adapt to new realities. I expect that there will be other orders as well.” Mariam is now sewing 20 to 50 face masks a day in a variety of colours. Besides supplying the local population, she sends face masks by mail to customers in other cities across Georgia.

Mariam is one of the participants of the UN Women project “A Joint Action for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Georgia”. Other project participants who own sewing ateliers have also started looking for new ways through this critical situation. Seven of them are already sewing face masks and meeting the growing demand in the market.

Ana meskhishvili sewing face masks for the shelters for domestic violence victims; Photo: Maia Meskhishvili
Ana Meskhishvili sewing face masks for the shelters for domestic violence victims; Photo: Maia Meskhishvili

One of them is Ana Meskhishvili, who lives in the village of Dimi in Baghdati district, Imereti region. The new COVID-19 crisis has prompted her too to make some changes: “In the beginning, local people asked me if I was making face masks. I realized that it would be a new opportunity for my sewing atelier, so I immediately purchased the necessary fabric. This business is vital to me and is my only source of income, so I will continue as long as there is a demand.” Ana is the only one in Baghdati district who sews face masks and meets the local population’s needs. On the initiative of UN Women, several shelters for domestic violence victims were provided with her face masks.

It is worth noting that the face masks made by Mariam and Ana were examined by the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia. The Center approved Mariam’s face masks as reusable for everyday life, while Ana’s face masks were approved as disposables.

The UN Women project “A Joint Action for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Georgia” is implemented with financial support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in partnership with the Georgian Farmers’ Association.