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Architecture, Craftwork & Empowerment: A Craft Center for Maasai Women in Kajiado, Kenya.
Serem, Juliet Jepchirchir
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Women's work is vital to the survival of impoverished households and a key ingredient in the sustenance of local communities. In developing countries, and especially in their rural areas, weak job markets, gender inequality issues, lack of education, insufficient technology, and limited skill capacity altogether undermine women's abilities to engage in activities that would promote and sustain their economic well-being. This thesis seeks to employ architecture and design as a tool that could improve the lives of rural women by supporting and enhancing their economic ventures. Focus will be given to the Maasai community of Kajiado, an arid region in East Africa, Kenya, where women face additional challenges posed by the harsh climatic conditions. These Maasai women have been doing beautiful, colorful beadwork for generations. The ornaments produced are worn to express their cultural identity, celebrate ceremonies and signify their social status within the community. In a desperate effort to earn an income to support their families, Kajiado women have tried to sell their products to local and international communities. However, poor business and marketing skills, lack of proper guidance and innovation, limited access to financial advice and support encumber their creative endeavors. This thesis project proposes a craft center in Kajiado that would host facilities and programs which would preserve, promote and progress Maasai bead-working with the aim of strengthening the women's social and economic capacity. `Women working in the informal sector are unrealized potentials trapped in poverty. It is essential to provide an enabling environment and skills to pull them out of poverty.' UNDP