ADEA is working to restore hope to Maasai women by helping them generate much needed income for their families and community through dignified and culturally affirming work. With the cooperation of Seattle based jewelry designer, Natalie Everett, ADEA has been exploring beaded ornament and jewelry designs rooted in these women’s skills.
For two terrible years (2008 – 2009), and sporadic rains since a drought brought on by climate change bore down on this proud and once wealthy community.
Maasai women once knew prosperous lives with husbands who built vast herds. They milked cows, reared children and devoted ample leisure time to the intricate art of bead working with skills that made them world-renowned.
Today these women struggle for meager earnings. They hike farther and farther away for firewood to sell at village markets. They dig ditches for bosses who break their spirits with insults and their bodies with six-hour shifts and no breaks.
The sons and husbands of these women take jobs as security guards in far-away Nairobi and Mombasa. This dangerous line of work killed one husband two years ago. Some men drown their despair in drink, come home, and tear their families apart.
People feel their bodies getting weaker on a daily diet of porridge. They can’t afford the school fees of twelve cents a day, so they keep their children at home.
They face the question of survival every day.
In spite of these hardships, they endure with a gracious and fighting spirit that is both inspirational and humbling.
Steady income from beadwork allows these women to stay at home and care for their children. It pays for food, school fees, and eventually the cows that create security and bind them together in cultural unity.
Our website shop will be occasionally selling some of these beaded products. Please keep an eye out for them.
For more information on our past work with artisans visit ADEAAfrica.org