Over 450 women from Kajiado County have benefitted from beadwork training through the Ushanga Kenya Initiative.
The women received training on how to use machines to string beads faster and easily so as to meet international market standards.
Speaking at the KCB grounds in Kajiado town during the launch of the Ushanga Initiative Kajiado Chapter, Deputy Governor Martin Moshisho, said the use of machines in beadwork require less handwork thus increasing efficiency and quality.
The Deputy Governor revealed that the Ushanga Initiative aims at empowering women from the pastoralist community to become financially independent.
Moshisho noted that for a long-time, women from the Maasai community have been making beads products only for decoration and as a hobby and it was a high time they earned money from the work of their hands.
“Beads have been part of our community for a long time, women have been making beadwork as a form of passing time and it has reached a time when they should be empowered to earn money from the beads,” he said.
Moshisho further revealed that access to international markets for the beadwork has been a major problem and middle-men have often taken advantage by buying the products at throw-away prices and exporting them at high prices therefore making huge profits without any accrued benefits to the women.
He revealed that the county government in collaboration with the national government is sourcing for markets in the western world and the neighbouring countries for the beadwork.
“We are working with the national government to source for markets in the developed countries as well as our neighbours. We have undertaken to build Ushanga markets in all sub-counties that will help the women sell their products,” said Moshisho.
He added that the county government was also engaging IT experts who will be able to use the internet to market and sell the beadwork products virtually.
Ushanga Kenya Initiative Chaiperson Hellen Nkaiserry said beading is a cultural practice in many pastoralist communities and it, therefore, ought to be made profitable for them.
“The project is aimed at job creation and transformation of the living standards of the women from pastoralist communities through commercialization of beadwork, which has remained a traditional activity with no significant benefit,” said Nkaiserry.
She said the 450 women who have been trained to use machines in beadwork will be sent to each ward to train other women.
Nkaiserry added that commercialization of beads will enable the women to become economically empowered and self-reliant.
The Ushanga Kenya Initiative is a national government flagship project to empower pastoralist women involved in beadwork by transforming their traditional art into tradable commodities for significant economic benefit and sustainable livelihoods
The Initiative also seeks to strengthen business and production capacity for women from pastoralist counties, as well as improve their competitiveness of bead products in local, regional and international markets for sustainable livelihoods.
The 5-year project targets women from the seven counties of Turkana, Samburu, Kajiado, Narok, Baringo, Marsabit and West Pokot.
By Rop Janet and Mulu Nzivo