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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Pastoral women out to make a change through bead work

By James Koinare
The Maasai tribe of Africa is well known for its traditional handmade bead jewelry. Beadwork has been an important part of Maasai culture for many years. It was normally done not for commercial reasons, but as a cultural beautification practice that is endowed with diverse beadwork patterns and styles for respective groups in the community with each having its own design.
The women listening to one of the facilitators during the exchange visit

In a bid to learn what Maasai’s from Kitengela in Kajiado County are doing, Yiaku Laikipiak Trust (YLT) undertook a two (2) days exchange visit for twenty (20) women drawn from four (4) women groups in Laikipia County.
The exchange visit took place courtesy of support from United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) which has funded YLT.
The main purpose of the exchange visit was to look at the available opportunities in three (3) major aspects namely; business perspective of handmade bead jewelry, identifying possible linkages and networks for marketing and identifying partnerships for strengthened skills development through training.
YLT realized that most of the women had been doing much of their work amongst themselves. This has tied them to restrictive pattern making that only serves the interests of few people in the locality.
Being close to the capital, and with regular and multi-diverse cultures interacting makes Kitengela a warehouse of reciprocating innovations that have weaved  the best designs of beadworks in the modern world.
Some of the women wearing bead jewelry
The exchange visit enabled the women to share from diverse exhibitions on the work that is being undertaken by other women and the skills they have borrowed from others. This new skills will enable them to not only know how to make beads the Maasai way, but also go an extra mile to encompass the desire and the likes of many within Kenya and the Diaspora.
YLT hopes that the exchange visit will influence the participant’s decisions and inculcate a new concept in traditional beadwork that targets to impact the present global market.
Today’s world calls for much in terms of creativity and innovation in order to attract a larger market for finished goods. Borrowed skills and knowledge on value addition are critical in achieving this noble cause.
There is a lot of dynamism in the world today, and much more is needed in order to match the unforgiving competition. Many people are capitalizing on the Maasai intellectual property. Value added Maasai works are on sale on larger markets of the world and its time Maasai women embraced the modern beadwork technology if they are to go commercial and earn a living from the work of their hands.

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