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Teach a woman to bead…

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By SUSAN MUUMBI
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And the whole family she will feed.

The sounds of goats bleating and babies crying welcomed us to Kalama Conservancy in Samburu County in northern Kenya on a recent visit.

This part of northern Kenya is is generally dry and dusty.

A group of some 11 women welcomed us with song and dance.

We — myself and five media colleagues — joined in, flexing our knees to the rhythmic flow of the traditional music.

We sat on makeshift stools, and the women introduced themselves to us in their local language and in Kiswahili.

We introduced ourselves to them in Kiswahili.

Beatrice Lempaira was our host on that hot afternoon. She is the beadworks production manager of Northern Rangelands Trust Trading, a for-profit social enterprise which is the trading arm of the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT).

She explained what her work entails.

“We work with conservancies in northern Kenya to empower the communities to find business opportunities. We have a credit and co-operative society, and we train the youth and women in business skills. They save money and take loans to run their businesses.”

Lempaira works with more than 1,020 women in nine conservancies across four counties: Marsabit, Isiolo, Samburu and Laikipia.

The process of transforming traditional women beaders from makers of personal jewellery to beading at a professional standard for economic gain has not been easy.

Production assistant Agnes Lekoomet said when they started the project in 2014, the women needed training.

“We had to teach them and it was hard work. When they discovered that they could make a living from it, they took a keen interest in the work. Now, they have become proficient and are teaching others. They know the right colour combinations and sizes of the ornaments.”

The best of the lot are referred to as “star beaders.” They receive the materials from NRT, then share them with the other women.

The star beaders receive the payments on mobile money service M-Pesa and distribute the money accordingly.

Some of the completed beads.

Some of the completed beads. PHOTO | COURTESY

This work has clearly uplifted the lives of the women. Faces aglow with the pride of earning their own money, they narrated their stories.

Nompaiyo Lepartingat, a star beader from Kalama conservancy, said they have come a long way.

“In the beginning, we would spend all our money on food and clothing. Now we have learnt how to use M-Pesa. We have learnt how to save with the co-operative, keep some money in our bank accounts, and use the rest for our day-to-day needs. We have learnt new skills, like how to check the finished products for quality. Even if NRT left today, we have acquired the skills to continue on our own.”

In the deeply patriarchal communities of northern Kenya, how have the men reacted to the women earning their own money?

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“The men are appreciative of our earnings. They know we are fine. Even when they have to travel long distances looking after the livestock, they don’t worry about us,” Lepartingat added.

It is whispered that some of the men help with the beading, but they would never admit to it as it is regarded as women’s work.

So what were the women doing before they started beading?

“We used to build our manyattas, fetch water, make the chang’aa (country liquor), burn charcoal and sell it. We have stopped distilling chang’aa because drunkenness brought many problems.

“We used to fight with our husbands. Now we have money for school fees, and we are contributing to the family income. We are rich!” star beader Margaret Lekaria said.

Beatrice Lempaira explained the sales process. “We look for local and international markets.



Some of the completed beads. PHOTO | COURTESY

Some of the completed beads. PHOTO | COURTESY

“Most of our products are sold in the UK, Australia and the US, to gift shops, conservation organisations and zoos. Locally, we sell our products mainly to lodges and a few shops. We also sell our products online via our website www.beadworkskenya.com.

“We have high and low seasons. The women earn between Ksh5,000 ($50) and Ksh10,000 ($10) per month [a considerable amount in that area] in the high season, between August and December.

“Most of our products are ornamental, like Christmas decorations, keychains and jewellery. We also make bags, belts and dog collars. Dog collars are doing very well on the US market.

“We use glass beads from the Czech Republic. These are more expensive than the plastic beads from China. The quality is higher, and we want to maintain those standards.

“Our biggest success is that the women understand that this is their business. Our biggest challenge is that more than 10,000 women want to join, but we can only take them according to market needs.

“Another challenge is keeping up with international standards. We are competing against products from South Africa and South America.

In late November, Danish Princess Mary visited the Kalama Conservancy and saw the beadwork made by the Samburu women.

She was clearly impressed. By the time she had finished touring their stand, the stock was significantly depleted, especially the Christmas decorations.

Danish Princess Mary at the Kalama Conservancy

Denmark’s Princess Mary admires beadwork from the Samburu women. PHOTO | COURTESY

Danish Minister for Development Co-operation Ulla Tornaes who accompanied Princess Mary on her visit said she was happy to hear that the women were using their earnings to educate their children.

“I’m impressed with what is going on in the area, especially the income activities by the women,” she said.

So, if you’ve been good this year and you end up on Princess Mary’s Christmas list, you may find a beaded gift from a remote corner of Kenya in your stocking.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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