Members of the Women Association RUKA in Tešanj started producing face masks and for each mask that they sell, they donate two.
While talking with Suada Mujkić, who heads Women Association RUKA from Tešanj, she mentioned that "a series of three training sessions on the production of soaps and creams based on medicinal and aromatic plants, conducted with the support of the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project, was the last activity we could carry out in a group setting before the COVID-19 pandemic mitigation measures were introduced."
The Association was established in 2012 to economically empower women. They are active on several fronts. Their members produce fresh fruits and vegetables, jams and juices, beekeeping, production and processing of medicinal and aromatic plants, and sewing.
Where did the masks come from?
“In one of our previous projects we acquired five industrial sewing machines that we used to produce various products for sale. When the COVID-19 hit, we thought it would be more useful to produce masks, mainly for those over 65,” says Suada.
"We saw a how-to video on YouTube and figured out the model of the face mask we could make. We had enough material to make the first 150 masks,” Suada explains. “As we ran out of the material, we understood that we would need to sell one out of three masks produced and use those proceeds to cover the cost of the other two which we would donate to those in dire need.”
But, as one of the COVID-19 mitigation measures banned people over 65 from leaving their homes, RUKA shifted their focus and donate to those who were the most exposed to the pandemic including the police, civil protection, health workers, and employees of companies that are still working. People from Tešanj who want to buy their masks either come by the association’s premises or write over Facebook to arrange for a pickup elsewhere in the town.
Working for free
The “selling one to donate two masks” model proved sustainable and RUKA has produced about 2,500 masks. As it is now time to work in fields and greenhouses most of RUKA's 25 permanent members, and women who benefit from the projects they implement, work in agriculture. There are, however, always two to three women rotating on the mask-production duties.
“Everything that our members do as part of the association is meant to supplement their incomes. Nonetheless, making masks for free during the pandemic is our way to give back to our community, which has been supporting us in the past,” concludes Suada.
The Sweden/USAID FARMA II project has been supporting the RUKA Association since September 2019. In addition to the education on the production of creams and soaps based on medicinal and aromatic plants, they will also be trained in online marketing and social entrepreneurship. The project also supported the development of the Association’s website: https://uz-ruka-tesanj.ba/