Friendship Colours of the Chars is producing effective 3-layered fabric masks to support and sustain char women artisans
Friendship Colours of the Chars is a social enterprise of Friendship SPO, promoting sustainable fashion. They work with destitute char women to provide them with certified training, work opportunities, and much more. But lately, the pandemic has left showrooms bare, production centers quiet, and local artisans in dire need of financial support. No business as usual, as Friendship says. Most of their revenue is redirected to the economic development of marginalized char regions.
To counteract the scenario during early March, experts designed a meshed, three-layer mask for field use and four-layer mask for crowd use. They are made with cotton fabric which prevents entry of particles as small as 0.02 microns (COVID 19 is 0.1 microns), based on a Japanese design which extends from 3 cm above the nose to 2 cm below the chin, and covers the cheeks too.
By mid-April, some 20,000 masks had been made and distributed directly to the organization’s staff and amongst community members. By the end of June 2020, Friendship produced over 100,000 masks, 1,200 coveralls and 1,000 gowns.
How it all began
The social enterprise began in 2011, primarily with field-based operations. They set up 7 char-based weaving centres, 1 land-based production centre and 1 land-based embroidery centre. Till date, these centres have trained a total of 731 weavers and 437 tailors since. After training, these women are shifted to production and paid monthly wages without fail, even during the pandemic period.
The production of fabric masks takes place in the northern areas of Chilmari and Goynarpotol, of Kurigram district, Rangpur division. With both regions combined, about 30 workers tackled the challenge head on today.
Social distancing of strictly 6 feet has been said to be maintained at all times. Hand wash has been made compulsory before premises entry, along with disinfectant spray overall. Masks and gloves are always worn, and the personnel chosen have been reported to not have travelled to other regions since the outbreak.
Material and dye
The masks are produced from 100% pure cotton fabrics, which are dyed using natural or azo-free dyes.
“Our methods assure no fabric health hazards. The materials used are woven on traditional handlooms at our own production centers. Making the masks breathable and easily washable, perfect for reuse.”
Nazra Mahjabeen Sabet, Assistant Director, Friendship Colours of the Chars, Friendship SPO
Inspired from the standard quality and pattern of Japanese masks, they have adapted the same process steps of triple layering for effective filtering from contaminants and dust.
“Production of masks and gown are providing a source of income and sustenance for the char communities. It is one of the few opportunities of economic sustainability during the pandemic period. I want to also acknowledge the women who are the heroes behind this effort.”
Runa Khan, Founder and Executive Director, Friendship SPO.
The fabric masks produced by Friendship are designated to be used by general population. Over 70,000+ masks have been distributed amongst the marginalized and to those in high-hazard zones as relief distribution. In Dhaka city, where COVID 19 cases are clustered, the masks were provided as a part of the Friendship NGO relief distribution.
The distribution line has been carefully considered. Handing out to local community households, law enforcement, police and also to prisoners in jail in Kurigram.
Moreover, masks are being exported and marketed in their retail stores in Banani, Dhaka and Grand Rue, Luxembourg. General and corporate clients are catered to in France and other nations across Europe. All to sustain the char weavers. Till June 2020, they have produced 110,000+ masks locally, and successfully.
Mask usage guidelines
The mask only blocks out dry, harmful and larger airborne contaminants including viruses and bacteria.
To avoid mouth-spread contaminants, maintain over 5+ feet of social distancing keeping mask on.
It is recommended to wash the mask with detergent water and dry off before mask reuse.
If mask becomes damp or wet, replace immediately with a new dry mask.
Do not extend use of the mask above 8 consistent hours.
Avoid touching the inside of the mask during use.
Where you can buy them today
Visit their showroom at House 40, Road 12, Block E, Banani, Dhaka 1213. They are open every day from 10am to 4pm. Corporates are requested to email [email protected]