For the first time ever, beading women from the pastoral communities will have an opportunity to market their products through a digital platform following the launch of a USSD platform.
The digital marketing platform targets women in 127 cooperatives drawn from seven pastoralist counties such as West Pokot, Narok, Baringo, Samburu, Turkana, Marsabit and Kajiado.
The project is facilitated by the government through the Ushanga Initiative under the Ministry of Sports and Culture.
The Ushanga Kenya Initiative is a National Government’s flagship project that seeks to empower the pastoral women involved in beadwork by transforming their traditional art for significant economic benefit and sustainable livelihoods.
The government seeks to use digital and social media as an avenue for evoking cultural pride, ensuring cultural adoption rewards the owner of the artefacts and the country as a whole, and transformation of the livelihoods of bead workers.
Speaking during the launch of the programme at Masai Mara,The Sports and Culture CS Ms Amina Mohammed hailed the initiative saying the digital platform is a vital tool for empowerment of women and girls
“This is a great milestone by my Ministry which boosts our mandate of preserving our culture through the bead, which we endeavor to protect zealously,” said Ms Mohammed.
She reveals that bead products have made a great contribution to the country’s development, especially the pastoral communities.
“Besides the economic value that embodies the bead, it also epitomises our cultural identity and heritage, which are some of our values of undisputable national importance and pride; and which has won global recognition,” she said.
Clients from all over the world adorn these women’s and girls’ beads of art across the globe and they will be traced directly right from the deepest of the country’s pastoral lands.
Traditionally, she says, the pieces of beads were highly treasured but earned nothing for the makers beyond ornamental beauty.
“But today, the USSD is a game-changer to the ladies from the cited communities. Access to markets and their narrative will be easy,” she added.
Through USDD, the women’s products will access wider markets, increase income from sale of their products digitally and will in return gain them economic independence and financial stability
The USSD will have a User Management Module that will have a database of the various women and co-operatives working with Ushanga Kenya, thus making it possible to trace products right from original producers. All relevant stakeholders will have role-based access to the system enabling a smooth running of operations.
The USSD platform is part of the government efforts to boost the sale of beadwork of women and girls by protecting the IP and legal rights relating to the bead and bead products as well as preservation of culture.
In Kenya, International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimates that tourists spent an average of $79 per tourist on handicraft purchases.
With trend analysts predicting a growing market for handicrafts, as middle-class populations expand rapidly, numerous opportunities are in store for artisans, especially in developing countries, to create products for these markets.
Hellen Nkaisery, the chairperson of the Ushanga Initiative termed the project as one of the greatest cross-cultural business innovations by the government for pastoral women since its inception five years ago.
“Commercialisation of beadwork has steered financial independence, cultural preservation and eased social adversity for the pastoralist woman,” said Mrs Nkaisery
She says that women have been enabled to create master pieces to match various major events through training in value addition and using the latest techniques, and at the same time preserving the rich heritage.
“Through beadwork, women now will have their own source of income to bring to the family basket. The women are now their own bosses,” said Mrs Nkaisery.
She reveals that so far the Ushanga Initiative has formed women cooperatives across seven counties with the smallest having 100 registered members.
In order to ensure that the artefacts meet international standards,Mrs Nkaisery says that they have been doing capacity building of the women on modern designs, value addition, entrepreneurial skills as well as use of tools and equipment.
On her part, Sports and Culture PS Jospheta Mukobe echoed the sentiments of the previous speakers, describing the platform as one through which potential local and international buyers can view, review and make orders for the items they want from local women.
“As we speak, the current world is fast moving towards the use of digital platforms as marketing tools. To realize this, we need to know our women, having the data of the original crafters of the authentic bead products,” she says.
She reveals that so far more than 5,000 women have since benefited from the capacity-building program and were now able to make contemporary pieces of beads that meet diverse demands for the global clients.
“I wish to report that during this year’s Deaflympics held in Brazil on June 2022, our country was greatly honored for show-casing more than 200 original pieces of beadwork and authentic work by our women from pastoral communities. The products were designed and crafted by our women. We take pride!,”said Ms Mukobe.