Friday 10 February 2017

Rahab Naisotuae Kenana is a social entrepreneur on a mission - she wants to transform the fortunes of hundreds of women in her rural homeland by marketing Maasai beads. The beads are already popular with tourists visiting Kenya’s vast Maasai Mara region and Rahab wants the women who make them to be smiling all the way to the bank. Rahab says, "Beadwork among Maasai women is century’s old tradition but it is important that this work is harnessed to benefit the local community, especially as we continue to make great strides in eco-tourism.“
Rahab was one of several social entrepreneurs, partners and policy-makers from both the public and private sectors who attended a British Council sponsored forum in Nairobi to discuss the social enterprise sector in Kenya. She works as a technical advisor to 15 women's groups in the Trans Mara region, inhabited by the Maasai, where she is helping them turn their beadwork into a commercially viable enterprise: “For Maasai women, making beads has been part of their culture for so long, but selling them has not raised living standards because middlemen have been reaping the benefits. Through this project, we hope that women will be able to strengthen their businesses, distribution networks and production capacity."
The UK is widely recognised to have one of the most developed social enterprise eco-systems in the world and has a demonstrated commitment to supporting the growth of social enterprise and social investment globally. At the Nairobi Social Enterprise Forum, Rahab and the other participants had an opportunity to learn from a UK social enterprise expert and the British Council Social Enterprise lead. “I have learnt a lot from the forum and also shared experience with other social enterprise groups that came to Nairobi, and this has opened doors for us to network and partner. It has been a very useful exercise to learn from the UK social enterprise sector and I now understand on the need for the Maasai groups to work on their leadership and accountability structures”, says Rahab.
The group has received a £24,000 grant from the British Council which will go a long way towards setting up the right structures to allow the beadwork to thrive as a social enterprise activity.