The sewing machines bringing a community together

Keeping safe while staying productive

Hiba Ali
woman sewing
22 June 2021

It’s been a long year for students at Al Farabi Boys Primary School --with over 750 students, the school sits in East Nile locality, Khartoum. On the final day of Sudan’s Primary School exams, the boys look forward to their long-awaited summer vacation with excitement.

As the students put down their pens, Amna and other community volunteers are gathered in a room sewing face masks out of bright fabric. This scene is one of many across the country under UNICEF’s COVID-19 Prevention and Response Project in ten states in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education. Teachers, health volunteers, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) members, and community volunteers received training on key COVID-19 prevention practices and awareness, mask production, interpersonal skills and community mobilization for fundraising.

While UNICEF provided the sewing machines, the community quickly made the project their own. Fabrics started coming in as donations from teachers, PTA members and neighbours. They brought in everything from old curtains, clothes to cotton sheets and T-shirts. Soon enough, the students started bringing in their own little pieces of fabric, asking for customized masks to match their outfits. The machines will be used to sew uniforms for the new school year and additional proceeds will help improve the school environment.


‘’People now come to me to make them face masks. I’ve made masks for my children, their friends, my extended family and some of my neighbours. I didn’t think sewing them was this easy, I just made 8 in that last half hour. We still suffer power cuts, but we learned to sew the masks manually’’.

women sewing

 ‘’I am a housewife. Volunteering for something that helps my community is good for me and my children. We’ve been trained to make 2-layered masks that are cool. I like to make them colorful, so they are attractive. My plan is to make large amounts of masks for a private school nearby that match their uniform. My neighbours are really interested in what we are doing and want me to teach them.’’

boys in masks

Ibrahim Awad, 14 years old shared his plans for the summer. ‘’Amna taught me how to make my own face mask so I can make some for my friends over the summer break. In my free time, I want to sell some for some extra pocket money.’’

This intervention is an example of UNICEF’s Communication for Development approach to achieve long-term social behaviour and practices change through sustained community engagement. The includes the use of Community platforms and networks that are sustained to drive change from within


With generous support from The Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and implementation by local partners SCEFA, the project aims to reach 25,000 students and 80,000 community members across Sudan. These are some of the ways UNICEF is serving and protecting the children of Sudan, their caregivers and communities because no community is safe until everyone’s safe…and productive!