The Maa Beadwork is a social enterprise that was found by The Maa Trust (a non-profit organization). It is based in Masaai Mara, Kenya and it involves 430 women from 15 different villages. Thanks to The Maa Beadwork, these women are now able to sell their art and support as much as 8,000 people in their community. Before all that happened, women couldn’t do any business for 2 reasons:
- High-end, luxury lodges wanted to sell unique local beadwork to the tourists, but couldn’t find reliable and high-quality suppliers.
- The women of Masaai wanted to sell their beadwork, but couldn’t reach the tourists nor did they have the necessary materials.
The Maa Trust initiated The Maa Beadwork, so that the women could finally support themselves and their families financially, improve quality of life, reach self-defined goals and make a meaningful impact at home. When starting the project, The Maa Trust turned to the elected elderly form the initially chosen communities first, seeking advice and help. They were right to do so, as the elderly knew their communities well and could easily point out the best beader, which also accounted for the overall success of the project. Plus, when the elderly were explained the concept and the proposal – they showed extreme support.
Therefore, each family has presented their best beader, however, other women were also identified (those in desperate need of financial support), such as: single mothers and widows. Afterwards when their skills and strengths had been tested, the Masaai women were given the freedom to choose the type of beadwork that they enjoy doing the most and are the most comfortable with doing.
The Masaai women have been working with beading for thousand-of-years, as it has been a part of their tribe’s culture. They have worked with seeds, wood and bone to create jewelry and other useful things for around the house. When the foreign travelers started coming to Kenya, the colorful, glass bead became very valuable and was even traded as currency.
As for their inspirations, The Masaai women take them from the authentic tribal designs and create not only new lines of jewelry, but also home-wear and accessories. They have even adapted to the more understated travelers and created a more subtle-colored line with the combinations of tones that epitomize ‘safari chic’. So far, this social event has only brought positive outcomes for the community and has made Masaai globally famous for its beadwork.