Listen! There is something happening among the women of Northern Kenya. Something powerful.
Recently, 1300 women of Maasai, Samburu, Turkana, and other tribes - have been exercising their incredible beading skills to not just earn a living - but to change their lives. And not just their lives, but 7800 family members, still living their pastoral, semi-nomadic lifestyle. They've sent 3500 children to school. They've protected their lands so that 1000 more elephants now graze there, and they've radically reduced the destructive practice of making charcoal by cutting down trees. That's some powerful stuff.
Meet just one of these women. Naisimari Lokorukoru rises at 5:00 each morning to get her four children to school, milk the cows, and complete household chores. She accomplishes her duties as one of two women on the Westgate Conservancy Board, protecting beloved elephants. Then, she gets 8 hours of beading into her day.
I love beading, says Naisimari. With the income from my beadwork, my kids are comfortable and able to go to school. I also don’t need to sell goats for money anymore, which means more milk for my family. But it’s not all about the money. With BeadWORKS, I’m able to use my skills, I feel smart.
The beautiful endangered Grevy's zebra is one of the wildlife species now protected by the community conservancies. And did I mention that 2500 of these family members now receive needed regular medical care? And that the women saved $10,000 in a community bank because they didn't have to buy more livestock and play that volatile market. And most importantly, did you know that this great advance in women's lives gives them a voice in family and community decision-making like never before?
BeadWORKS is the remarkable group organizing this movement. I'm excited that Ibu has joined forces with them (through our amazing contact, Joanna Brown, who volunteered in Kenya with this group and now represents them in the US). Joanna met with our design team and, together, we came up with some seriously beautiful necklaces, bangles, belt, even keychains. Show-stopping and yet lightweight. There is something incredibly exciting about joining a movement with Naisimari and 1300 other remarkable women. Women who decided to rise up.
With great enthusiasm for this work,
Susan Hull Walker