Photo © Courtesy of NRT Kenya
Meet Nabiki Lesuper from Kalama Conservancy. She is 49 years old, married, and a mother of 8 children; four boys and four girls.
Nabiki says that before she joined BeadWORKS, life was so difficult. Her family solely depended on her husband, who was also unemployed. He would have to sell livestock once in a while to provide for their needs. A balanced diet was scarce, and they were unable to attend to health issues.
Ten years ago, Nabiki joined BeadWORKS Kenya. She initially resisted joining, thinking it was a waste of time, but she agreed to participate after some persuasion from friends.
In 2015, her group members made her a superstar beader. A star beader coordinates orders, production materials distribution, and other group activities. Over the years, she realized her leadership talent. Her group is well-organized and supportive of each other. Being a star beader gave her even greater opportunities. She has been able to attend many conferences and several exposure trips. Before joining BeadWORKS, Nabiki believed that attending a meeting, giving opinions, and speaking in front of the men was taboo.
Now, she confidently speaks up, which is a significant achievement for herself and other women. Her community even elected her to the conservancy board, a role that was historically only for men.
She has opened a Savings and Credit account with the Northern Rangelands SACCO (Savings and credit cooperative). With this, she was able to educate her children. Being an active member of the SACCO, she was elected as a SACCO agent in her conservancy. She recently upgraded her house from a traditional hut to a permanent block-house, and she has opened a shop selling clothes and food.
Nabiki’s story shows that BeadWORKS is not just about beads. It’s a method of empowerment and a way to show women that they are capable of more than they may realize. BeadWORKS is a movement of women who can speak for themselves, who can do things for themselves, who have savings, who can think about the future, and plan for their kids. Through BeadWORKS, women are able to take on leadership roles in their homes and communities, making informed decisions about healthcare for themselves and their children, connecting to the outside world through cell phones, and even giving back to their communities.
“We have come to a level where we can confidently take loans because we are sure we can pay with our BeadWORKS income. And now we can confidently pay for other things like school fees or opening a kiosk.” —Ngesinoi Leinte, Star Beader, Melako Conservancy, Rendille people
BeadWORKS was founded in 2007 by The Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) www.nrt-kenya.org as a small, donor-funded program to organize women’s groups and help them sell their beaded products. In 2014, BeadWORKS became part of NRT Trading, an business accelarator of sustainable social enterprises. Between 2014 and 2018, BeadWORKS underwent a complete transformation, implementing a Star Beader production system that empowered and gave women responsibility. The system improved training and gave the women access to credit and savings tools. Product quality and reliability improved immensely, and the business grew to 1,300 women, benefitting over 7,500 people.
The Northern Rangelands Trust supports 39 community conservancies across northern and coastal Kenya. NRT member community conservancies work to conserve wildlife and sustainability manage the grassland, forest, river and marine ecosystems upon which livelihoods depend.
NRT Kenya fundraises internationally for their member conservancies, and provide advice and guidance on management.