Tunisia: Masque Solidaire - Young Tunisian Designers' Contribution to the Fight Against COVID-19

Aida Kerkeni is a medical doctor by profession. Helping others stay healthy and safe is her job. However, she is helping her community grapple with COVID-19 in more ways than one.

"I saw that the shortage of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic had put everyone, including healthcare workers, at risk. That is when the idea to produce facemasks occurred to me," explains Aida.

She had already created the Aida brand - an outlet to showcase her talent for designing. When the coronavirus struck, Aida took action to express solidarity with her community.

She joined 'Masque Solidaire'.

A group of six young Tunisian designers are producing facemasks for those who still have to leave home for work. These designers are producing masks for police personnel and those who are making home deliveries and working in supermarkets at a time when everyone has taken refuge at home.

As a mother in quarantine at home, Aida manages a packed schedule. She takes care of her family, produces facemasks and coordinates with associations supporting families affected by confinement.

"I produce around 10 facemasks every day. We are successfully distributing facemasks to medical centres. The project's team is helping us identify those in need of our products," said Aida.

Respecting the lockdown, the young designers are working from home. They are producing washable and reusable fabric facemasks made of 100% cotton lined with an impermeable layer. After each use, the masks can be washed and hot ironed to kill bacteria and viruses.

The first batch of 100 face masks was delivered to a health care centre in Menzel Bourguiba, in the Tunisian countryside.

Aida feels there is an opportunity for the textile and clothing sector to support people as they try to resume activities. "The responsibility to fight the pandemic is a collective one, and although medical staff are in the front line of this battle against COVID-19, we all have to play our part." Aida concluded.

She is willing to return to her hospital job but wants to continue providing facemasks to those who need them the most. "By protecting healthcare workers, we can protect the entire population," she believes.

The group of young designers will continue to produce these facemasks and are inviting other entrepreneurs to join the solidarity initiative.

The International Trade Centre's Global Textiles and Clothing Programme (GTEX) and its related work in the Middle East and North Africa (MENATEX), provided support to this act of solidarity in Tunisia. The masks are produced in line with specifications and safety instructions from the Tunisian University Hospital and follow the recommendations from the Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR) certification group.

The programme promotes Textile and Clothing (T&C) exports from countries in Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. The aim is to stimulate employment and income generation along the value chain.

The GTEX programme is funded by the Government of Switzerland and MENATEX is funded by the Government of Sweden for the MENA region.

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