To the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania, beadwork represents their cultural values and traditions. From necklaces and bracelets to belts and sandals, beadwork is used in everyday life as well as in weddings, rituals, and community events. It is considered an honor and often a duty for Maasai women to learn and practice this handicraft. Many women, like Ann, makie it their main livelihood.

 
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Growing up too fast

 
 
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Married at age 12, Ann felt somewhat helpless to even imagine what her future might look like because she had little control over it. So she started her own household and raised livestock because that was traditionally expected of her. When tragedy struck again with the death of her husband, Ann’s life became even more desolate.

“Back then I didn’t even know what is was to hope. Now I hope to build a house and grow my business.”

 
 

As a single mother raising her children, Ann has come to appreciate the importance education will play in their futures. She says all the work she does is to ensure they have lots of opportunities and possibilities. Through this Graduation program, implemented by The BOMA Project in Samburu, with technical assistance provided by BRAC, she has also learned the importance and practice of savings, further padding her businesses against shocks like drought or sickness. With maize in her stores, a formal water tank and share in the bank, Ann has taken a lot of the worry out of her life and is ready to expand her bead-making business and finish the construction of her home. When asked about her and her families current situation she exclaimed:

“We look good now! We look healthier now!”

 
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When asked what was her happiest moment, Ann replied with a story. Soon after she was chosen to participate in the Programme for Rural Outreach of Financial Innovations and Technologies (PROFIT) Financial Graduation programme, funded by IFAD and the Government of Kenya, her mentor came to her home for a visit. Ann didn’t have access to clean water and wanted to serve her mentor tea. So Ann went to a neighbor and asked her if she could borrow some water. Her neighbor scowled at Ann and told her just to get some dirty water from the river. Ann was embarrassed and couldn’t bring herself to serve dirty water to her new mentor. She was deeply ashamed to not have anything to offer her.

Months later, after Ann has started growing her business, she invested in a water tank. The first thing she did? She called her mentor and proudly told her that she could come over any time. She said she would always have tea ready.