One BRAVE Woman with Sewing Machines Saves Lives!

In light of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in Yemen, with a very fragile healthcare system in place, it was necessary to think of alternative solutions to the more conventional forms of healthcare delivery. Yemen, like other fragile and conflict-affected states, was ill-prepared to face the pandemic, especially since the public health system has nearly collapsed and swift, appropriate measures were not in place to protect medical personnel from the novel virus. Such personnel is often considered the country’s first line of defense in combatting any epidemic. Therefore, Yemeni hospitals witnessed a significant increase in the deaths of medical doctors throughout the governorates of the Republic. One critical factor which contributed to this situation was the dire shortage of the most basic protection tools for medical teams to ward off the virus, including masks, suits, and other personal protective equipment (PPE). It took a businesswoman named Nadia with a humble medical clothing sewing workshop to come up with a viable solution to support Yemen’s Covid-19 response efforts.

Nadia needed to drastically increase the production capacity of her business and this was achieved by adding new machines to her sewing workshop and hiring new additional workers. As a result, she successfully increased her medical face mask production from a few hundred units per day to about 1000-1500 units, in addition to producing between 100-150 PPE gear daily.

Furthermore, Nadia joined the Business Resilience Assistance for Value-adding Enterprises Women (BRAVE) project (Project), an idea funded by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) and designed by the Islamic Corporate for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the private sector arm of the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDB Group). The latter, in collaboration with the Small & Micro Enterprise Promotion Services (SMEPS) also manage and implement the Project in Yemen. The BRAVE Women program targets to train up to 1500 women across three countries (Yemen, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso) to learn to develop business plans in fragile and high-risk contexts, and up to 1200 of them will get access to funding on a matching grant basis. This program aims also to develop the relationship between those women entrepreneurs with the local banks and also lead companies to enhance make sure those women have their access to finance and markets to grow their businesses.

Through the BRAVE Women project, Nadia was taught how to develop a concrete and viable business plan. This included a business continuity plan that focused on increasing the production capacity of a business and the means to anticipate any future risks. The Project managed to support Nadia by equipping her with the skills to meet the urgent demand for manufacturing medical face masks and high-quality PPE gear.

She was also provided with the financing that enabled her to buy more sewing machines and employ additional staff to cope with increased production.  

Nadia was able to foster good business relationships with other businesswomen working in the medical field, as well as expand her professional connections to include both private and public hospitals in more than one governorate of the republic of Yemen.

Nadia expressed her pride in the fact that she actively contributed to saving the lives of frontline responders during the pandemic, as well as patients who needed to protect and confine themselves until full recovery.

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