As a resident of Kaikor in Turkana North Sub-County, Rebecca Erupe options for formal employment or engaging in viable economic activities are limited. Therefore, in a recent sensitisation meeting about Ushanga Initiative, she appreciated the county’s drive to encourage women to take up beadwork as an economic activity.

The Ushanga Initiative, a program under the Department of Culture in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Natural Resources, is targeting such women like Rebecca to improve their lives through beadwork. Under the initiative, the department will offer training and assistance in accessing local and international markets.

The department having already trained over 20 trainer of trainers (ToTs) from Turkana South, East and Central Sub-Counties, the next was the vast Turkana North/ Kibish Sub-County and on a later date – Loima Sub-County. This recent exercise sensitised over 100 women in Loareng’ak and Kaikor centres with plans to reach out to more centres.

“We [the county] would like to encourage you to make different types of beaded products to sell as it will improve your standard of living and promote the Turkana culture,” said Lemmy Ejorewoia – the Chief Administrator in the Department of Culture, during the meeting with the Kaikor women.

He also assured the women that the department would be training them soon with machines such as looms and bead spinners that he showed the women during the two meetings.

By learning how to use the machines and business skills, the women would be able to make different beaded items, create new designs, work easier and faster, and advance the finishing of the products in order to be competitive in the market.

On his part the Turkana North Sub-County Administrator James Ekwakai encouraged the women to continue making bead product because it is a source of income.

The Ushanga Initiative, done in collaboration with the National Government, is meant to empower the pastoral women by changing the perception or understanding on the use of beads as not just an adornment but an economic asset to improve their lives. Turkana is one of the seven counties targeted traditionally dealing in beads; others being West Pokot, Baringo, Marsabit, Samburu, Narok and Kajiado.