Maasai women sit together under the shade of an acacia tree, beading traditional designs onto leather strips while they sing. They live in the wide-open Maasai-Mara preserve in the company of wild animals, gathered in compounds of mud huts and extended families, having no cars or roads but long legs to carry them. Now, for the first time, they have work.
Pikolinas is a Spanish shoe company which partners with Maasai women to hand-bead toppers for shoes, putting together the finished product back in Spain. New Maasai women are joining this opportunity every day - learning on the less complex designs to complete one piece in 2-3 days. The experienced beaders take 5 days to finish a complex design.
Nokipaa Nabaala, above left, is raising 5 children; Pikolinas funds their schooling while she saves all of her salary for their college education.
Margaret Letura, center, is in charge of the Maasai Project in Tanzania, overseeing the full production of 300 women on the other side of the Mara River. She has a dream of building a logistics center in her country. Pikolinos is helping her do this.
Kilukunye Gilisho, at right, is married with 6 children. From her beading salary, she not only has improved her children’s health and education, but also had enough money to buy cows, a source of income that until now was open only to men of the Maasai.
Olivia Palmero is the ambassador for the Maasai project, proudly wearing their sandals and educating the world about the Maasai culture. Now, ibu is thrilled to carry these bold, beaded statements. Utterly comfortable. Sexy. Fab. My sandal of choice any day.