Beads work turns Pokot women into entrepreneurs

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West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo(left) among other leaders observing bead products
Photo by Evans Jaola: West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo(left) among other leaders observing bead products

Cultural beliefs in the Pokot community have prohibited many women in pastoral areas of West Pokot County from owning property despite them being talented in many fields including bead making and other activities that does not necessarily need education.

For a long time, women in the Pokot community have been facing significant challenges that prohibit full enjoyment of their human rights as they are forced to depend on their husbands for economic empowerment.

However, it is now a new dawn as many  have a reason to smile after engaging in the use of beads to make decorative products as an income generating activity to fight high poverty level and peace building in the region.

Bead making has been a traditional activity in the Pokot community with no significant economic benefits but the program aims at ending poverty and promoting sustainable economic growth.

At the moment Pokot women are selling bead products  and even exporting them after receiving training courtesy of the government.

West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo appealed to women in  the county to take up beadwork as an economic activity to better their lives.

Speaking while  closing a one month training at Mercy Center ,Chepareria in Kipkomo sub-county  Lonyangapuo said that West Pokot is a county of hidden treasures where women make peculiar ornaments. He called on tourists to visit the county and see bead products .

“Our women are creative. We will support them and bring competitions which will be done in wards for them to get awards, “he said.

Dorothy Mashipei, Coordinator Ushanga Initiative said the Ushanga Initiative will go a long way in transforming the lives of the pastoral women by adding value to their bead products which has been a traditional activity.

She said that the government  through the Ushanga Initiative is doing capacity building on women from pastoral areas to equip them with the relevant skills needed to transform bead making into a lucrative business for them to earn a living.

West Pokot woman making bead products
Photo by Evans Jaola: West Pokot woman making bead products

She cited that the women have been trained on how to add value to the products by equipping them with the relevant skills needed to transform bead making into a lucrative business for them to earn a living.

The Chairperson of the  Program  Mrs.  Helen  Nkaissery said since independence there has been no program that targeted  women from the pastoralist communities  which has resulted for the women lagging behind in development.

She said the program which is funded by both county and national governments will reduce inequalities by enhancing economic opportunities for indigenous women in Kenya by utilizing indigenous knowledge.

“We target women from Turkana, Samburu, Kajiado, Narok, Baringo, Marsabit and West Pokot counties, the women will be able to get money and buy personal needs for their girls who drop out of school because they lack sanitary towels and school fees. We empower women so that girls can further their education. “she added.

Mrs. Nkaissery  said the products will have international appeal and they source a direct market for them hence attracting tourists.

“Our objective is to support marketing and visibility of products and cultural narrative of the bead industry through exhibition and trade fair. They will be making table marts, lump shades, belts, necklaces, key holders, bangles, beaded clothes among other products, ”she said.

County Executive member for Sports and Culture, Joel Arumonyang said they have trained 450 women per sub-county in five sub-counties on bead work in West Pokot County and have already provided materials which include leather and beads.

He added that women from the pastoralist communities’ hail from male controlled dominated families when even ownership of property is still not understood which affects their outputs towards making efforts to have their own money.

“Due to the harsh environment under which women operate scanty resources in terms of water, food and other essentials makes women’s household chores extremely daunting, laborious and time consuming leaving no time for them to concentrate on bead work as an enterprise, ” he said.

Pauline Loyara a beneficiary said as Pokot women they treasure their culture of beading and they do it to pass time but they have never discovered their products could be marketed locally or internationally.

The Ushanga Kenya Initiative  Project was initiated by  The national government, Council of governors in collaboration with partners from the private sector that aims at job creation and  transforming the living standards of the women from pastoralist communities through commercialization of bead work.