Women entrepreneurs supported by AAH Kenya’s Kakuma project are among hundreds of exhibitors participating in this year’s cultural festival popularly known as Tobong’u Lore (welcome back home) that is taking place August 15-18 at Ekalees Cultural Centre in Lodwar town. They are here with a vibrant display of colourful hand-woven baskets and bowls, bags and jewellery that have kept a flow of visitors streaming into the stand.
For Regina Nanok, seeing her goods on display for the world to see and buy is a dream come true. The joy in the 38-year old mother of five was hard to miss as she bubbled on and on while grinning from ear to ear when asked what she liked most about being at the exhibition. “I have interacted with so many people today and this is good in helping us market our products. I think I am becoming better at selling thanks to all the bargaining and haggling over prices with the customers that I had to do today,” she said. One of those customers was Mr Herbert Perr, the European Union Ambassador to Kenya who bought some woven baskets from the excited traders.
Regina is among a group of women and girls whose business skills have been nurtured under the Safe from the Start project run by AAH Kenya since the beginning of 2018.
The project is providing business support services for talented artisans to build sustainable enterprises in handicrafts, fashion and design. 382 women artisans so far have been supported through the project which targets women and girls at risk of sexual and gender-based violence. Beneficiaries are drawn from the Turkana host community and refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Somalia.
Regina and hundreds of others through their groups have received over Ksh. 1.6 million (approximately USD $16,000) in form of loans through the Safe from the Start project Providing access to business capital through such loans has been a key driver of growth for these women’s businesses. The entrepreneurs are also members of the Turkana west integrated Savings and Credit Co-operative society (TWISACCO) which was launched in March 2018 as another avenue of business finance.
Being at the Tobong’u Lore, Regina and her fellow women are receiving exposure to outside markets, which is one of the aims of this project – to create linkages to markets within and beyond Kalobeyei’s vicinity.
The annual week-long fete which is sponsored by the Turkana County government attracts scores of local residents, international participants and dignitaries. Its aim is to show-case the cultural heritage and diversity of this community. From songs and dances, artefacts, food, costumes, rituals and road races, the event has been lauded as the biggest cultural festival in Kenya.