Women sew face masks to meet high demand

As Samoa steps up its protective measures against COVID-19 with confirmation of the first positive case, women who were part of the nofotane programme, are producing face masks to meet the high demand from the public.

Tiomai Ah Lam is one of 15 ‘nofotane’ [married women living at their husband's home] seamstresses who took part in a project to help her achieve financial independence by sewing face masks for COVID-19 protection. 

Ms. Ah Lam was under Samoa Victim Support Group’s (S.V.S.G.) women empowerment programme courtesy of the continued partnership with the European Union and United Nations’ Spotlight Initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (U.N.D.P.).


However, when the project concluded earlier this year, she continued to produce face masks to make a living.

In 2017, the mother of six took part in a programme for nofotane women spearheaded by S.V.S.G. that taught skills so participants can have some form of income.

“The programme enhanced my skills in sewing so that I can earn more money to raise my children especially providing for my family,” she told the Samoa Observer.

However, the 41-year-old originally learned how to sew from her in laws.

“As I grew up, I saw my mother always looking for seamstresses to sew our school uniforms and that cost money.

“When I got married, the idea of becoming a seamstress was so we did not have to pay for anyone else to sew our clothes especially the children’s uniform.

“So far, I have made more than a thousand face masks over the previous months because I could produce more than 200 masks a week.”

With no one having a formal employment in her family, being seamstress was one of the main source of income for them.

“We also depend on selling our local produce, and fresh flowers bouquets and leis. We earn more than $200 a week and sometimes $500 if we have a lot of clothes to sew.

“I have also taught my children how to sew and they are biggest helpers including my husband. With Samoa announcing its first COVID-19 case that came out positive and negative it has led to our people demanding for face masks as preventative measures.”

Mrs. Ah Lam also added that it is a good sign that the Samoan people are now using face masks not only as a precautionary measure but also to stop the spread of the flu.

“I think our country should prioritise its health and safety because so far, many lives have been lost due to COVID-19 in overseas countries.

“Let’s do it for our children, families and as a country. I sell my masks for $3 it is made of cotton or poplin fabrics.

“When making masks with fabrics, it must be ironed well so that it comes out the way it is used.

Back in July this year 15 nofotane seamstress under the S.V.S.G. empowerment programme were the recipients of sustainable income from sewing masks for COVID-19 protection, courtesy of the continued partnership between S.V.S.G. and European Union United Nations Spotlight initiative of the U.N.D.P. 

President of S.V.S.G., Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledged the U.N.D.P. Spotlight initiative for the collaborative approach in addressing the social and economic impact of COVID-19, through the continuous partnership with S.V.S.G.

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