Maa Beadwork is a social enterprise facilitated by The Maa Trust, based in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. We are a collective of 494 women, each from a different family across seventeen villages. Together, through the beadwork products that we create and are now able to sell, we are able to support over 9000 people in our communities, and the impact of Maa Beadwork on our lives has been remarkable.
Maa Beadwork began in 2013 at the request of local women. While The Maa Trust’s CEO, Dr. Crystal Mogensen, was undertaking her Ph.D. looking at the relationship between conservancies and development, women explained that they are not engaged at all in conservancies and do not receive any direct benefits. The women were frustrated that they would see many tourists around and had made beadwork products but had no way to sell these to the tourists.
Maa Beadwork began with the simple idea of linking the ladies with camps to create a market for their items. We did this though a ‘soko’ model whereby on request, guests could request the local ladies to come to the camp and sell their wares. During this time, camp managers explained that while they would really like to support this initiative, the quality of the items needs to improve and become more standardised.
Maa Beadwork undertook intensive training with the ladies and introduced them to beading on high quality leather. From this time, Maa Beadwork has set its sights on becoming a high quality producer of beaded items for purchase within the Mara and export across the world.
This dream is now becoming a reality. Over the years Maa Beadwork has increased from the initial 150 women to 494 across 17 different communities. The ladies are divided into three categories according to their ability and the items that they are able to make, but with continuous training they are able to move up and today, 70% of the ladies are in the top category.Maa Beadwork is a registered Community Based Organisation and each of the 17 groups is registered as a self-help group. Maa Beadwork is run entirely by Maasai women and is a prime example of what Maasai women can achieve, given the opportunity. Thanks to the income generated, the traditional handicraft skills associated with beading are now secured for future generations.