New immigrants stitch masks that are comfortable with hijab

Mohanad Moetaz
Published: September 3, 2020

A Winnipeg-based social enterprise employing newcomers has turned to making masks as a way to help people get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cutting Edge employs immigrant women and trains them to operate sewing machines. So far, the program has made thousands of masks.

Operations director Anne-Lydie Bolay told CBC News that there has been a lot of interest and that “many orders are being placed by some of the colleges, also some of the groups that are advocating for accessibility.”

The Cutting Edge program, which is run out of the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute, has employed ten newcomer women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At first, only regular reusable masks were being made. However, this changed after hearing of concerns from newcomers who had difficulty communicating with a mask on.

Now, they make regular cloth masks as well as masks with a see-through window. This way, other people can see the wearer’s lips while they speak, and new immigrants who have not fully grasped the language may be able to better communicate.

In addition, all the masks made by The Cutting Edge are made comfortable for women who wear the hijab, the traditional headscarf worn by some Muslim women.

Bolay also maintains that the women making the masks are paid a reasonable salary, receive benefits and are offered flexible hours. 

One of the women, an immigrant from Ethiopia called Alia Mohamed, told CBC News that she really enjoys her work and that she can now make a stylish mask in just seven minutes.

Mohammed had moved to Winnipeg to be with her brother.

She says she one day hopes to start her own business making clothes. However, in the meantime, she is more than happy to continue working for the Winnipeg-based enterprise.

For those interested, the masks are available in bulk through The Cutting Edge website, through the Local Investment Toward Employment website, or through the Ever Present Giving website, or at Pollock’s Hardware Co-op.

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