By Christine Musa
Maasai women engaged in beadwork, weaving and the making of other handcraft items have cried foul over unscrupulous middlemen who exploit them.
They claimed that the middle making the earn million in profit after buying the items cheaply.
Speaking at Kajiado town during an exhibition that brought together Ushanga women from across the county to exchange ideas, the women said middlemen were buying their items at very low prices which they later sell at a huge profit in the urban centers and abroad.
They said brokers target high end markets, including lodges thronged by tourists.
“Our efforts to get sell the wares directly to the tourists are frustrated by brokers who operate as cartels to edge us out,” lamented a member of the group.
“Despite the effort we are putting in our beadwork projects ,we earn very little profit, makig our business unviable. Brokers operating as cartels dictate prices for us,’’ complained Juliet Ncharo.
They further said to have severally tried to boycott selling the artifacts to brokers, but they instead go to other markets in Narok and Samburu.
“We have no umbrella body to voice our grievances or uniting us to articulate our rights. Brokers take advantage of this to frustrate us,’’said Damaris Naserian.
“We have no specific market meant for beadwork artifacts, we struggle to get space within established markets where food stuffs, grocery and cloths dominate. Our target client mostly don’t frequent such markets and we end up selling too little to sustain us,’’ complained Ruth Leshinka.
She further claimed the lucrative Maasai handcraft market in Nairobi is dominated by middlemen.
“We now call on the County Government to put up a market for us and at the same time market their products abroad,” he appealed.
“A necklace which sells at around Sh600 at Maasai market is bought at between Sh100 to Sh120 here,” he lamented.