This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Namrata Pandit. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How Has The Masked Consumer Evolved During The Pandemic?

More from Namrata Pandit

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Before vaccines and their booster doses were developed, masking and social distancing were the only rules public health officials had hoped the public would swear by. Do you remember the first mask you bought? Chances are it wasn’t a surgical mask or an N95; it was probably a cloth mask.

With the advent of the pandemic, mask styles have evolved as well. The initial dearth of medical masks led to a lot of panic. The general public who could only go out of their house to buy essentials weaponised the cotton fabric to protect themselves from a killer that wasn’t visible to any of all.

Now, masks have become commonplace and an undeniable source of income for many. They are sold on the streets as well as at e-commerce stores. Surgical masks are also available for the public to buy. People are now more aware of their choices despite the rampant misinformation around the usage of masks.

Credit: Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

While in some countries, cloth masks are being banned, deeming them particularly ineffective against emerging strains of the virus, this opinion is not the same everywhere. In a country such as India, many people will not be able to afford single-use masks for themselves. They will likely depend on fabric masks to protect themselves. And this consumer trend is probably not going to change any sooner.

I roamed in the markets of Durgapur to find out what mask sellers had to say about their sales. It’s a rare sight to find women selling masks. I met one woman, Shiuli, who was selling masks out of a store that primarily sells clothes. When I approached her, she quickly drew a mask over her face and asked me to sit.

“I have been selling masks since 2020, and I keep both medical as well as cloth masks. Whenever customers buy masks, I tell them about the usage and storage instructions for each type,” she says.

Tarun, who also sells masks out of his retail store, wasn’t wearing a mask when I approached him and didn’t bother to even after confronting him. The irony of most mask-sellers (predominantly men) is that they don’t wear a mask themselves. Tarun explained why a mask is needed and was aware of how to dispose of or store a mask. Yet, he seemed nonchalant about wearing one himself because “Corona toh ekhon kome geche (Corona has decreased now).”

Most sellers don’t make masks at home. Instead, they rely on wholesale sellers to buy cloth masks, N95s and surgical masks. Both Tarun and Shiuli sell all kinds of masks and see the highest number of sales in surgical masks. Younger people tend to buy colourful fabric masks while working men mostly buy N95 masks.

Mask-sellers I talked to in Durgapur say that their sales were higher last year when panic and fear around Covid led people to buy and stock masks for themselves. Now, they see customers more aware of multiple options for places to buy masks. The sale of masks now is lower than it has ever been throughout the pandemic. Surgical masks remain the consumers’ favourite.

It’s evident that many people make a fashion statement using masks. People wear colourful patterns or strictly solid colours to match their outfits or the occasion of their outing. Going out of the house has become a highly anticipated event for many post the pandemic and it shows when they carefully plan a mask to wear and when.

While fabric masks offer a variety of possibilities, surgical mask makers have understood the assignment. The black surgical mask has made a bold move that is now jumping from celebs to the masses, especially teens. While fashion trends continue to evolve, this might promote the use of masks and be a cheerful distraction from fighting a pandemic.

Besides aesthetics, putting up a mask when you have a common cold is a simple and effective manner to protect others from catching on to your cold. East Asians have long practised this. It seems like a cultural hard-wiring they are born with. On the contrary, other parts of the world have responded to wearing a mask as something shocking, uneasy and even difficult to accommodate in their daily life.

Personal liberty to not wear a mask sounds revolutionary on Facebook posts. I wonder if this personal liberty comes at the cost of others’ lives — children and immunocompromised people in this case. And how many people are willing to pay the price?

Will India be able to reach a scale where surgical masks are accessible to all? Plenty of fake medical masks with inefficient structures circulated during the initial stage of the pandemic and continue to do so. Even if the sales of medical masks surpass that of cloth masks across all demographics of India’s population, will the country take a stand on banning cloth masks?

If public health communication happens to work wonders and convince people to wear masks at all times when they are outside, are there authorities to be concerned over the disposal of masks? Is the increase in the production of single-use surgical masks an imminent threat to waste management in the environment?

Studies continue to compare the efficiency of cloth masks to that of medical masks. It is evident from studies that cloth masks don’t offer equal protection as medical masks. However, this can’t be a reason enough to discard or ban the use of cloth masks altogether, especially in a country with limited resources and their inequity and inaccessibility. Experiments on designing cloth masks with optimal performance are also underway.

No matter the type of masks that stay in consumer trend, it is safer to protect yourself with layers, safer than exposing yourself to the virus in your surroundings. Masking, washing hands, social distancing and getting vaccinated with due time should be our priorities.

The author is a Kaksha Correspondent as a part of writers’ training program under Kaksha Crisis.

You must be to comment.

More from Namrata Pandit

Similar Posts

By Neha Yadav

By Aishwarya Bajpai

By Amoli Trust

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below