Female tailor makes money in Covid-19 crisis

Ms Catherine Tibagwa showcasing the face masks she has sewn at her home in Hoima municipality as she continues sewing others during the coronavirus lockdown. Credit: John Kibego

Like American author Ursula Kroeber Le Guin says in her book, “The creative adult is the child who survived.”

Tough times will always need creative solutions to minimise their negative effects, writes Kazinjema News reporter.

Catherine Tibagwa, a tailor in Hoima municipality has not let her creativity fall asleep by eking out a living through producing face masks meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

She says this is the only way she could keep life moving after government closed her workshop and other businesses with intent to control the spread of the deadly global coronavirus pandemic.

Tibagwa now works from home together with her daughters who, too, are skilled tailors.

Following the closure, Tibagwa spent a week perplexed at home without work since her sewing machines had been locked up in town.

But the night she heard on radio that face masks were essential preventive gears, Tibagwa quickly identified an opportunity and purchased quality pieces of fabric to start tailoring face masks.

The following morning, she dusts her old Singer sewing machine normally used from home during Christmas tide nights when duty is too demanding to accomplish the remaining cutting and fitting work.  

Two weeks later, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni decrees that face masks should be a must wear.

The presidential declaration saw Tibagwa get an order for face masks from a company for its employees.

“We got an order from one company that wanted 1,000 face masks for their workers. We worked day and night and by the end of 24 hours, we had produced 400 face masks and got some good money,” she says.

Audio: Catherine Tibagwa on face masks (Kiswahili)

Tibagwa explains that her worries about the hard economic times over coronavirus were narrowed down by the daily income generated from face mask sales.

“My children have not suffered from feeding challenges as I had anticipated”.

Tibagwa sells each double cloth filtered face mask at Shs2, 000 with one outlet at her home in Kiganda, at the periphery of Hoima town.

Now, Tibagwa inspires women and men to be enterprising and always think diversely to manage the dynamic nature of business and economy at large.

Speaking to this website, she says she started her tailoring career after senior four in 1979 and has a lot to show from it.

“I have built a house as a single mother. All my children have completed studies and I don’t run short of what to eat,” she explains.

Her daughter, Violet Nyangoma, who is also a trained tailor is working on the sidelines of her mother for a living.

However, she notes a challenge of interaction between children and customers while at home compared to the workshop in town.

The coronavirus pandemic has greatly crippled white-collar job employees in the private sector with majority relieved of their duties as part of ensuring Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) laid down by the ministry of health and lowering the pay bills since incomes had automatically dropped with the lockdown.

Those with practical skills and farmers were not affected to lack basic needs including food and shelter.

Lack of innovativeness and industrialisation has left the ban on public transport not lifted due to the absence of capacity to produce face masks for at least 36 million Ugandans above five years of age, a condition set by the president if the ban on public transport sector was to be lifted.


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