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I cannot get enough of the Women’s Groups. I have a good friend, Yasmin, who has 7 daughters. Can you imagine? That is a whole lot of oestrogen! Yasmin is one of Melako’s board members and is passionate about empowering women in Melako. She helps quite a few women set up enterprise groups, to develop culturally appropriate industries to earn an income. Alternative and sustainable incomes that do not rely on natural resources are so important in the north and one of the most enterprising industries is the Beadwork Cooperative.
It is one of the first things that you notice about Maasai, Samburu and Rendille women: their incredible beadwork. The women use the beadwork to tell a story about their lives. With a woman you can tell her age, marital status, and even how many children she has by her beadwork.
The colours symbolize different things as well:
Red represents the lifeblood of the animals,
White the milk,
Green the life giving grass,
Blue is the rain,
Orange is about guests and hospitality,
Yellow is the cattle,
and Black represents the people.
When we catch up with the women, it is like a huge gossip and bead making session. The women also work with a grassroots group called NRT Trading to turn their traditional beadwork into products for different markets around the world. We will meet with NRT Trading’s coordinator, Celina Butali, and hear some of Celina’s hilarious stories of working with the women in the north. Buying the beadwork from the women is an important part of supporting alternative livelihoods in the conservancies. I love some of the stories the shopkeepers tell. Whenever market day finishes, the women move to the shops in a herd and pretty much buy all the cooking pots and pans in sight. The income is also spent on education, health services, and food. The greatest joy for me is seeing the familiar faces of women who had just started with the beading groups a few years before and having very little, if any, education or business skills, now writing their own loan documents, keeping business records, and moving onto larger enterprises, like shops.
There are a few support groups for young unmarried mothers as well. Rose is a friend from Merille who supports young unmarried mothers to return to school and to also learn a skill like seamstressing. Keep an eye out for some of the beautiful work that Rose’s girls have made especially for RAW Africa Eco Tours’ special guests. As life gets tougher in the north with continuing droughts and depleting livestock, some of the women become the sole income earners for their families.
RAW Africa Eco Tours provides a market for the women, like Yasmin’s and Rose’s groups, to sell their products through Oryx campsite, and we would encourage you to buy a memorial of your amazing journey directly from the women with whom you will be spending time.
You can also support a start up enterprise through RAW Africa’s ‘Want to do a little bit more’ programme and when you come on this journey with us and have some spare room in your bags, RAW Africa Eco Tours would be grateful if you could ‘Fill a Space’ and bring baby, toddler and children’s clothes for Rose’s girls.
For more information on how you can meet these fascinating women, come and visit the African Tour Page.
For more information on the 'Want to do a little bit more' programme or 'Fill a Space' please feel free to contact Brooke Squires firstname.lastname@example.org
Brooke Squires has worked in zoos, national parks and conservation areas around the world. These days, she divides her time between her beloved rhinos at Werribee Open Range Zoo, Victoria, where she is a rhino keeper, and the International Conservation Partnerships for Zoos Victoria.
Ph: +61 (0) 423 393 836