Maa Beadwork is a social enterprise that has been established by The Maa Trust, to bring additional livelihood to women and their families. Beading is the tribal art and talent of Maasai, who have been famed for their adornment for centuries.
We undertook this project in 2013 at the request of Maasai women who felt they were not benefiting from the conservancies, as rent payments largely passed only to men. The ladies wanted to be connected to the tourist market in the Mara, and to camp managers who requested high quality local produce for their shops.
Maa Beadwork has been lovingly guided and nurtured by Resian Letoluo, who is now supported by a dedicated team of fellow Maasai ladies. In 2016 the project expanded to include 430 women from 15 villages around Olare Motorogi and Naboisho Conservancies. Each of our members is from a different homestead (‘boma’) and represents, on average, 19 people who benefit from the project indirectly, thus increasing the impact of Maa Beadwork from 430 women to over 8000 people.
Our catalogue includes a wide variety of beautiful leather, canvas and beaded jewellery, accessories and homeware.
Many of the tourism camps in the Maasai Mara support Maa Beadwork and the ladies wares are increasingly available in socially responsible outlets around the world. To date Maa Beadwork can be found in Boston, The Netherlands and across Australia. In June 2016 we also opened an outlet at The Maa Trust’s HQ on the border between Olare Motorogi and Naboisho Conservancies. You can visit us and browse the ladies handmade wares, see them beading and even have a go yourself.
The Maa Trust runs a sustainable spending scheme for its income generation projects. Our focus is not on the amount of money that the ladies earn, but rather on the impact that this money has on their lives. We have conducted a baseline survey to assess current poverty levels amongst group members so that we can measure the project’s impact. We also researched the ladies’ greatest challenges and what their dreams are.
Maasai women spend a large portion of their time collecting water and firewood and they face challenges supporting children, especially daughters through school. Life is also made more difficult due to a lack of power in homesteads. To address these challenges, every Maa Beadwork member has customized her own wish list of priority items to work towards, and our team guide them on how to bank their earnings to save up for items like rainwater collection tanks, gas cylinders for cooking and solar power kits. Many are also keen to ensure that all of their children, including girls, have the chance to go to school.
Each village has formed its own self-help group of 20-40 ladies and they coordinate their own micro-finance schemes. The women make weekly contributions into a group savings box, from which household equipment is bought in a merry-go-round system. In this way all members of the group can quickly attain expensive items that make a huge difference to their lives. Members can also borrow money from their group’s finances if they would like to start a small-scale business.
Both the self-help groups and the larger community-based organisation are formally registered under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development, Narok South Sub- County, Narok County Government.
We aim to expand Maa Beadwork to include 1000 women and their families by the end of 2017. If you would be interested to partner with us in making this dream a reality please do get in touch.
For more information about Maa Beadwork visit: www.maabeadwork.org