Kinsevere’s community sewing workshop – adapting to the pandemic

Written by Lydia Mpundu     October 20 2020 at 3:45 PM

During the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, a large number of small and medium-sized businesses across the world have been impacted by social distancing and national restrictions. Fortunately, this has not been the case for the community sewing workshop at Kinsevere’s operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The health crisis has given them an opportunity to grow and restructure their business, resulting in a 30 % growth in turnover in the past few months.

In April 2020, just two weeks after closing the workshop due to national COVID-19 restrictions, the team was excited to be given the opportunity to restart their machines and pick up their scissors once again. The team made adjustments before being able to reopen, rearranging the workshop to adhere to social distancing rules. The workshop, formerly occupying a 42 square meter room, is now spread across five different rooms including an open straw hut; the objective of this layout is to avoid any form of contamination during working hours.

During the national restrictions, the Kinsevere mine remained in operation following a strict COVID-19 safe plan, which included less roster changes due to travel restrictions. As a result, employees were more in need of spare uniforms than ever. While producing 150 to 200 work outfits per month, the tailors at the sewing workshop discovered another market – manufacturing fabric masks for community members. Access to single-use masks is a luxury for many households, especially in rural areas. The workshop identified an opportunity to capitalise on the unused uniform fabric scraps to make washable masks. The workshop is producing more than 4,000 masks for village schoolchildren, all the while continuing to manufacture and deliver uniforms for both scholarship students and the MMG employees.

With this success, Kinsevere took the opportunity to encourage the workshop to formalise its business structure. A local NGO was invited to lead two sessions on restructuring the workshop into a business and capacity building. The team developed an agreement, a cooperative statute and applied for the necessary legal documents, after which a bank account was opened in the workshop’s name. Management training was also provided to all team members. These steps allowed the workshop to be legally registered as a cooperative under the Kinsevere Cooperative Agreement.

With all this in place, the sewing workshop has become a benchmark for small business in the Kinsevere region.

Five months after the declaration of the pandemic in the DRC, the Kinsevere sewing workshop remains COVID free, and their 16 tailors continue to receive a regular and stable income.

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