KOBE is the Swahili word for the Africa Sea Turtle - a beautiful sea creature with a hard external shell. We believe that KOBE represents both the amazing beauty and the toughness of the African Savannah.
We started bead making as a direct response to the devastating effects of climate change among the Maasai. The Maasai, a pastoralist community in Kenya, have borne disproportionately the negative effects of climate crisis manifested in the form of prolonged drought whose effect has been to wipe out entire herds of cattle which was hitherto their livelihood and only means of survival.
With this devastation, communities are unable to send their children to school and the obsession to restock declining herds has forced many families to marry of their child daughters to get dowry in form of cows to replenish their herds and preserve wealth and status. This crisis is what led us to intervene.
Through our work with 400 Maasai women in four groups, we have been able to provide a much needed livelihood support and keep girls in school, reduce incidences of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
We have been upskilling the traditional beading skills of the Maasai women to help them make products that are of higher standards and are both relevant and acceptable to a wider audience. We now have the first Maasai beaded Apple Watch bands ethically made following fair trade principles. They also make belts, bracelets, collars and other beaded products and our work is to provide the support and the platform for these amazing women to amplify their work.
Then in 2020, as we were working with Maasai women, COVID-19 broke out with its devastating effects on the job market. A group of 300+ women (mostly single mothers, orphans and widows) who had been making ceramic beads in Karen Nairobi were laid off as tourism plunged. Most of these women have not been able to return to work. We responded to this situation by establishing a ceramic beading division to help these women cope with the crisis. This has provided a lifeline to them and we not only pay these women fair wages but we also pay them higher than their previous wages. We now employ twenty nine (29) of these women and we hope to bring back all the 300+ women.