Gislene Pereira, 51, is a dressmaker who lives in the outskirts of Brasília. Before COVID-19 struck, she used to make custom shirts for celebrations like birthday parties and uniforms for companies and churches. “All the orders I had were canceled. My whole production was shut down,” she said.

Through a project supported by United Nations Population Fund in Brazil and Fábrica Social Jardim Botânico, a community support organization, Gislene returned to work sewing facial masks--something she has never made before. “If it wasn't for this project, I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills and eat,” she said.

UNFPA Brazil will buy 3,000 masks and 1,000 towels from the project. The items will go into dignity kits also containing soap and hand sanitizer that will be delivered to homeless people in the Brazilian Federal District through a partnership with local authorities.

According to the Reproductive Health Commodity Security Programme Officer of UNFPA Brazil, Nair Souza, the project is an opportunity to help the most vulnerable and assure income.

Ilton de Queiroz, executive director of the Fábrica Social Jardim Botânico, explains that the project started making masks for neighbors. It hired Brazilian workers in a precarious economic situation like Gislene plus Venezuelan refugees and migrants. The order from UNFPA Brazil was vital for the project. “So far, we have 12 families benefiting from it,” he said.

During a short training, Gisele had the opportunity to meet the Venezuelan refugees and migrants. “I have trouble understanding them, since I don’t speak Spanish, but we get along. We started talking about dressmaking and it worked,” she giggled.