Kazuri Beads - Supporting Employment Opportunites for Women in Kenya
Last week was my third time visiting Kenya. Because I travel on business, I'm usually working and rarely get to see much.
But, anyone that knows me, knows I love some great accessories! Because I rarely get to see much when I business travel, I originally discovered Kazuri beads from the gift shop at the Serena Hotel Nairobi.
My travel girlfriends and I have been enjoying Kazuri beads that we've purchased from local shops in Kenya for quite some time. When I happened to be in the neighbourhood of the factory, I was excited to stop by.
Kazuri means small and beautiful in Swahili.
The Kazuri bead factory started in Nairobi, Kenya in the 1970s. British woman Susan Wood started the enterprise to bring employment opportunities to local women. The business primarily employs women who are single mothers, widows and/or women with special needs. They provide access to health care, child care and pay above average wage for similar jobs in Kenya.
Through a process using simple, customized machinery, clay beads are formed, baked, hand painted and glazed in the factory.
Originally clay was shipped from the U.K. In recent years a Mount Kenya has become the source. The women sit in long rows, chatting and working away at forming the beads, and then painting each unique piece of jewelry by hand once it is made. No two pieces of jewelry are the same!
Modern Day Kazuri
The factory has grown from 10 employees to several hundred, focusing on providing sustainable employment to women. They have expanded into pottery and sculptures.
The jewelry is reasonably priced, especially considering each piece is made by hand and unique. Earrings go for $5 - 7$ CAD (approx. $3 - $5 USD). Necklaces range from $15 - $20 CAD (approx. $13 - 17 USD). Prices at independent stores and online stores may vary, depending on markup from individual retailers.
The women had a huge whiteboard on the wall where they were filling orders for stores around the globe! If you see these beads at a store in your area, I'd very much encourage you to purchase! A quick search also shows some online retailers.
Kazuri is now a member of the World Fair Trade Federation (WFTO), an internationally recognized organization which recognizes fair wages and safe working conditions.