Stories from BeadWorks

Eight years ago, 46 year old Asheina was brewing illegal alcohol in a bid to support her three children. Her small herd of sheep and goats wasn’t enough to pay for school fees, healthcare and food for her family. With no education and no access to financial help – brewing illicit alcohol was the only way she saw that she could make ends meet.

Asheina lives in Westgate Conservancy, and in 2007, she joined together with other women in the area to create the Rapunye Women’s Group. Through the NRT BeadWorks programme, Asheina and the other women in her group received business management and bead craft training, learning skills they used to design and sell beaded crafts to NRT Trading. Asheina stopped brewing illegal alcohol, and concentrated on her new enterprise. She has now earned enough money to support all three of her children through school, supply her household with food, and still has some left over to grow her business. Once a month, the NRT BeadWorks team come to Westgate, selling the women raw materials at subsidised prices, and buying crafts ordered the previous month to sell to ready markets locally and abroad. These monthly markets are more than just business though. As well as the buying, selling, and exchanging of product design ideas; these meetings are a great opportunity for a good old social! The BeadWorks team also have a chance to chat to the women, find out how they are doing and where the programme could improve. 

© Ami Vitale. Market day.

Padris Lenguta of Melako Conservancy has a similar story – she used to sell charcoal, before she joined the Merille Women’s Group and learn beadcraft. She was able to take business development training and get access to a micro-loan to boost her beadwork business, and buy a small herd of sheep and goats. Maria Lekidayo, in the same women’s group as Maria, used to sell miraa in an attempt to support her children. With the profits she has made from her beads, she has opened a small grocery shop in her local village.


© Ami Vitale.

In 2014, 860 women like Asheina, Padris and Maria earned US$ 112,500 for their families through the NRT BeadWorks programme. Providing women with an alternative source of income is lessening dependancy on illegal or environmentally damaging enterprises in the conservancies – as well as empowering the women through education and the freedom to develop their own businesses.

“The men used to disapprove of us with our bead business” says Saloi Karuja of Lekurruki Conservancy, “we used to have to depend on them for money. Now, they see the benefits and they are supportive. Now, they tell us when the NRT vehicle is coming for market day!”