How flour sacks and face masks gave women livelihood

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    When the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was implemented on March 15, no one was ready. With work suddenly suspended, most daily wage earners had no idea where to get their next meal. There are also those who have small businesses who must negotiate lack of demand for whatever product or service they provide.

    Such was the case for Malou Sol, a seamstress and a founding member of the Sewers for Equity and Welfare Producers’ Cooperative in Taguig. Their 12-member sewing cooperative took jobs from various clients, but when the pandemic crisis hit, they were pretty much idle and were not earning anything.

    Meanwhile, hundreds of kilometers away in Lapu-Lapu City, Irenea Coremo, also a leader of a cooperative, namely the Sagip Multipurpose Cooperative, is in the same boat.

    Amid the uncertainty, both cooperatives were given hope when they received a call from one of their patrons, Pilmico Foods Corporation. Prior to the pandemic, both cooperatives have been Pilmico’s partners in several projects.

    Pilmico started the Flour Sacks to Face Masks project amid the ECQ with the purpose of equipping its business units and personnel with reusable face masks, as well as donating said masks to communities and partners that need them.

    With the help of Sewers for Equity and Welfare Producers’ Cooperative, Sagip Multipurpose Cooperative, and other partners, the Flour Sacks to Face Mask project was able to produce almost 34,000 recycled, reusable, and washable face masks. These facemasks were bought by Pilmico and other Aboitiz companies, giving the sewing cooperatives a substantial livelihood to rely on amid the crisis.

    As the country transitions from a post-quarantine period, the demand for reusable face masks continues to increase. According to Flour Sacks to Face Masks Project Lead AJ Belen, the sustainability of the project will improve with more partners. “Our production partners are continually producing masks as Pilmico provides materials that they could upcycle,” he said. “We’re always looking for partner cooperatives and, of course, beneficiaries for the project,” he said.