Sambalpur, Odisha: What can be the better way to describe how women do better off than men in many fields , by telling the story of a village woman who came forward to help poor people during the lockdown due to COVID 19 and produced masks for poor people in cheap rate in her locality in Sambalpur district of Odisha.

This was not easy though for her to do so as getting the raw materials was one of the ardous tasks during the lockdown but despite hurdles and limitations, she stood strong in her mission and produced face-masks for the poor people in Kinaloi area of Sambalpur district, thanks to her indomitable perseverance.

Girls have immense potentials than men devalue and they are more important than what they are thought up to, Sarojini Kalo from a rural village of Sambalpur district of Odisha proved that true.

In the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, people across the globe are coming together to help each other. Like other countries and states of India, Odisha is also reeling under the grip of COVID 19 pandemic. Though the Odisha government under the leadership of Mr Naveen Pattnaik is leaving no stones unturned to help people in this humanitarian challenge time, it’s also important that we help each other and show that together we can overcome.

While the state government thrusted upon wearing of masks as it can prove effective at capturing droplets, Sarojini saw that there is a lack of adequate quantity of protective gear to tackle the deadly coronavirus. That’s when her idea to make face-masks by herself was stemmed in.

Kinaloi is one of the remotest Gram Panchayats in Sambalpur district where Sarojini lives. There is no medical store in the Gram Panchayat and people face innumerable problems in accessing affordable and healthcare in these areas.

So, whatever masks were available in this area, got vanished in a few days as the demand grew. Due to the huge demand, the shoppers started raising the price of the mask between Rs.200 to Rs. 300 which is 10 times higher than the original price which made people tough to buy those, despite their worries. At the same time, it was also important for the people to wear masks as it can play crucial in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why Sarojini chose her mission to produce masks for the community.

Sarojini says “the lockdown was a blessing for me this way. I could see people are reporting that they need masks and they cannot buy masks which are being sold at higher prices. Then, I realized that I can help them since I know tailoring. Initially, I bought 5 meters of cloths and other materials to prepare masks and started sewing it. But then realized that the demands are more and I continued making masks and provided to the needy in just 15 rupees”.

Notably, in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus in the state, the Odisha government brought ordnance on April 9, that wearing masks is mandatory in public. Just a day after Odisha government implemented fine for not wearing a mask while stepping outdoors, fuel stations across the state on Friday also came out with a stringent rule that masks are mandatory for refilling.

To adhere to these rules which is taken to stop the spread of Coronavirus, there was an increasing demand for masks.

The 42-years old Sarojini has always been fascinated by helping poor people any way possible and therefore joined Mahila Sangram Samiti, Sambalpur, a district-level people’s collective of Mahila Shramajeebi Manch, Odisha where she works to empower rural women towards their socio-economic and political empowerment.

She further says “It’s our members of Rengali Block team who had thought of this idea. Since I knew tailoring, I could take the task that our team had dreamt up. The support and inspiration from my team members of Mahila Sangram Samiti, members of Mahila Shramajeebi Manch, Odisha and Atmashakti Trust motivated me to do something away with and noble for the community. Without their support and encouragement, it could not have been possible”.

Sarojini first produced the masks among her neighbours and villagers and as the word of mouth spread, she started receiving inquiries from the neighbouring villages. Till now, Sarojini has already churned out 500 masks individually and producing 30 to 40 masks everyday to meet people’s demand.

Sarojini says “Several organizations and offices including the State Bank of India Sambalpur Branch have approached me to provide them face masks. Especially, when the Odisha government made it mandatory for the public to wear masks whenever people venture out of their home, the demand has increased unexpectedly”.

“Sarojini not only made masks and supplied us at a very reasonable price, but she also has distributed masks for free to those who cannot afford to pay 15 rupees and especially to the old people”, says Mr Sanjib Kumar Mishra who lives in the same village and witnessing Sarojini’ s humanitarian work during the pandemic.

“Elderly people are especially vulnerable and their needs are vital. So, I decided to distribute them the mask free of cost”, said Sarojini.

“Her mission to make masks are also stepping up to help cover the shortage of masks in the market and we are proud that Sarojini can do that when there is a need to team up our efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 Virus,” says Ms Shanti Bhoi, President, Mahila Shramajeebi Manch, Odisha.

“These face-masks can be washed and used again instead of the typical masks that are worn and then thrown out. Our state government is taking many proactive steps to combat Coronavirus, we still can do our bit and there is no better way for me than to be with my sewing machines to make masks for the poor people who cannot afford the same from the market”, concludes Sarojini.

Naba Kishor Pujari is an author, columnist and Media professional and has been writing on education issues since last 10 years. His articles have been published in Odia, Hindi, English and Turkish journals and newspapers. He has received JP Overton fellowship for Education Policy in 2012 for his work on public education in India. Based in Bhubaneswar, Mr Pujari is awarded Laadli Media Award 2017 for his contribution in writing in newspapers on women’s rights, Duradarshi Samman 2013, Saptaka Literature Award in Youth Category for his contribution to literature and media.


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