BeadWORKS’ recognized that it was the women in these communities who were hard-working and willing to learn new skills. It was also recognized that any income generated by women would be put to good use educating their children, spending money on medical care and improving both their family’s and their communities’ standard of living.
H/E: Can you tell us a little more about the women who for BeadWorks?
JB: The artisans are pastoralist women in northern Kenya from the Samburu, Maasai and Rendille tribes, who live on community conservancies. BeadWORKS allows these women to continue with their pastoralist lifestyle, rather than being tied down in one place.
H/E: What sort of on the job training does BeadWorks provide to the artisans?
JB: BeadWORKS’ women receive training on new product designs, entrepreneurship and basic business skills. Each group has several Star Beaders with approximately 10 beaders working under them. These business leaders are skilled beaders, selected by the women within their group. Star Beaders train beaders and also monitor quality control. There are currently 150 Star Beaders.
Monthly Product Development Days bring Star Beaders together from different communities to our office to work on new designs. It ialso presents an opportunity to educate women about personal care, conservation and wildlife protection.
H/E: Can you tell our readers about your biggest success thus far?
JB: Our biggest success so far has been the employment of over 1,350 pastoralist women working from their villages, not in factories. Beading in their free time allows them to carry out their daily chores and semi-nomadic lifestyle. Women can support their families without having to resort to destructive income-generating practices such as charcoal making and livestock rearing, thus also vastly reducing damage to habitats, allowing wildlife to thrive. Income from their traditional beading handicraft is more reliable and sustainable. It allows them to pay for their children’s education, medical bills and better nutrition.