Grace designs affordable, three-layered mask to fight COVID-19

Voices of Youth

By Rebecca Phwitiko
Grace believes that everyone’s contribution counts
UNICEF Malawi/2020
25 August 2020

Grace Sichinga works from home these days, attending countless virtual meetings. Her interaction with friends is also restricted. “I find that having weekly goals, whether professional or personal, no matter how small- gives me something to look forward to in this difficult time,” says Grace.

The 23-year-old Economist is a Project Officer at a local youth organisation. She believes that everyone can and should do their part to help Malawi achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Grace is currently working on a project that teaches girls to make reusable sanitary pads and another to fight gender-based violence during COVID-19. “I am grateful for the opportunities that I have to improve the lives of others, especially the youth,” she says.

Grace noticed that many people in Malawi can’t afford to get the right masks to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.  She designed a mask from a cotton t-shirt. Grace says the mask is comfortable and can be made without any sewing equipment. She uses three layers of cloth to make the mask more effective.  “You need at least two layers of hydrophobic fabric which resists water penetration, such as umbrella cloth. The innermost layer must be made of hydrophilic material such as cotton cloth or a blend of cotton cloth,” explains Grace.

She adds that the masks are re-usable, more affordable than the surgical masks on the market and more effective than the regular tailor-made reusable masks. “They are also easy to make using locally available materials and do not require a sewing machine or thread/needle if you do not have any. It requires basic skills but is still effective and people, especially young ones in the rural areas, can use this mask as they go about their daily lives to prevent contracting COVID-19.”

Grace believes the UNICEF COVID-19 Youth Challenge is a good platform to promote innovation and creativity among the youth. “This kind of challenge helps young people to recognise their own strengths and learn from others, as well as to have an impact on the well-being of their fellow Malawians. It’s about taking responsibility and making a change. Whether big or small, everyone’s contribution counts.”