Coronavirus: Muslim women cook free meals for struggling families during Melbourne’s second lockdown

‘There is a stereotype of women in hijab that they are not doing anything for the community,’ says Afshan Mantoo

Matt Mathers
Monday 27 July 2020 11:07 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

A group of Muslim women has come together to feed Melbourne’s most vulnerable people amid the city’s second Covid-19 lockdown.

Lawyers, teachers and healthcare professionals volunteer their time every Friday to cook meals for those struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.

Afshan Mantoo, chairperson of Muslim Women’s Council of Victoria Inc. and head of the volunteer group, said she hoped the programme would help change attitudes about Muslim women’s participation in Australian society.

“There is a stereotype of women in hijab that they are not doing anything for the community,” Ms Mantoo told SBS Urdu.

“When someone takes food, they say, ‘oh! a Muslim woman is doing something’; it feels good.”

Each week the volunteers cook a variety of meals including chicken korma, rice and lentil soups from a commercial kitchen provided by Moreland City Council in Melbourne’s north.

The volunteers wear face masks, undertake regular temperature checks and maintain social distancing to adhere to public health guidelines.

Ms Mantoo said people from all walks of life had come to pick up the food the women had prepared, which is served in large packs that can last up to three days.

“Businesses are closed, there is no work. It is very hard for anyone to survive in the pandemic,” she added.

Melbourne has seen an increase Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, with large parts of the city placed in lockdown for a second time.

On Monday, Victoria recorded six new deaths from the novel virus and logged a record daily increase of 532 new cases compared with 459 a day earlier.

“Five of those six deaths are connected to outbreaks in aged care,” state premier Daniel Andrews said in a media briefing in Melbourne.

Victoria on Sunday suffered its deadliest day since the pandemic began after reporting 10 deaths, mostly at aged-care facilities.

The state recorded its previous one-day high of 484 cases last week.

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