Samburu relies on internet to market beads to empower women

Sunday March 08 2020

Some of the beads done by different women groups in Samburu on display during the recent International Maralal Camp Derby at Yare village near Maralal town. PHOTO | POOL


Samburu County is set to create a unit that will market beads in neighbouring regions and to the Bomas of Kenya using an online platform. This is according to Deputy Governor Julius Leseeto.
Items for sale include breast plates, earrings and bracelets that are mainly made by women.
Mr Leseeto noted that women in Samburu often face barriers in marketing their beadwork, something that the county is trying to address. Other challenges, he said, include cultural norms and lack of information.

“They (women) often face difficulties in marketing their products. We will use available means including online platforms to help them” said Mr Leseeto.

He added: “It will promote entrepreneurship 3in pastoral areas especially in Samburu.”

Bead ornaments are popular with tourists and the devolved unit has resolved to fully fund the Ushanga Kenya Initiative across all wards in the county.

More than 500 women in Samburu are set to benefit from the programme. Mr Leseeto said resource centres will be set up to advise businesswomen across the county.



“Women, if empowered, are catalysts for societal transformation and that is what we are doing,” said Mr Leseeto.
He revealed that women will also be trained on how to use machines such as looms and bead spinners to increase efficiency.

According to Mr Leseeto, by learning business skills and how to use the machines, the women would be able to make different beaded items, create new designs and improve on the products to be competitive in the market.
In a recent sensitisation meeting about Ushanga Initiative, he lauded the county’s drive and encouraged women to take up beadwork as an economic activity.

The Ushanga Kenya Initiative among Maa speaking communities is meant to empower women by changing their perception on the use of beads.


The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife established the Ushanga Kenya Initiative in 2017 and pledged for to market beads in foreign capitals including US and European countries.

Samburu is one of the seven counties that have traditionally been dealing in beads. Others include West Pokot, Baringo, Marsabit, Turkana, Narok and Kajiado.

According to the World Bank, the traditional art has the potential to become a profitable export niche.

However, majority of people working in the beadwork industry lack business skills and contacts both in the local and international markets.