“Pastoralist School Girl” Who Beads Bracelets for Her Fees,

29 Aug

Schools reopen for third term in a week’s time and most parents are still struggling to raise school fees. Many student worry that their parents will fail to raise the required amount. Being sent home in the middle of the term, thereby missing classes is something that haunts many students.
However, this is not the case for one Agnes Netaya Kimpuk from Enoosaen village in Transmara District, Narok County. Her single parent has never raised her school fees. Netaya, a 17-year-old Form Two student at Oyugi Okango Secondary School in Migori County, has been beading bracelets and selling them in the US through a programme called Seed to Sew, to raise her fees since her father forsook her for refusing to be circumcised in 2009.
Polygamous family
“I had sat for my KCPE examination in 2009 and as I awaited the results, my father organized, without my consent, that my younger twin sisters and I be circumcised,” says Netaya, a second born child to a second wife in a polygamous family of 15.
She says her father had wanted her circumcised while in Class Six but she pleaded with him to allow her complete her primary education. Her twin sisters were circumcised but she said no to the cut. Her father was so mad at her that he stopped talking to her.
When the results were out, she was admitted to Enoosaen Girls but her father refused to pay for her school fees saying he would have nothing to do with her. “I lost hope of ever going to school after I missed my Form One vacancy. I began whiling time away at the local market. I was wasting away fast that my former primary school head teacher John Kararan asked me to go back to school but I refused,” she says. She finally agreed to go back to her primary school in term two, but as fate would have it, the class was full and she had to enroll in Class Seven.
In April 2011, an Advocacy Project Peace Fellow from the USA, Charlotte Bourdillon, was placed at the Kakenya Centre for Excellence and she undertook a project to profile people around the Enoosaen community, who were making waves in one way or another in the fight against FGM and early marriages. Netaya was one such person who fitted the profile: bright and ambitious about her education, but shackled by tradition and a family that did not support her desire to continue her education.
Netaya gave Bourdillon a beaded bracelet as a gift for listening to her story. Back in the US, Bourdillon’s friends asked her to order more bracelets. Soon Netaya was making thousands of shillings through her beading skills. “Bourdillon gave me a loan of Sh5, 000 which I used to purchase beads, razor blades and thread. I made 24 bracelets which earned me Sh33, 000,” says Netaya.
By the time she completed Class Eight, she had made over 60 bracelets. Last April, she made 50 bracelets which earned her Sh23, 400 and by the time the teachers’ strike ended she had completed an order for 58 bracelets. “I know I will make more money from the 58 that I just sent to the US because they were a special order. Such orders normally fetch more money,” she reveals. On Netaya’s bracelets, messages of peace, love, hard work and anti-FGM are weaved so as to influence others.
Her fears
She is thankful to all those who have supported her saying she was fearful ending up in an early marriage or even as a prostitute. “We have mended fences with my father. I have no grudge against him and I am happy that he now understands why a girl should be educated,” says Netaya, who wants the Maasai to abandon retrogressive cultural practices.
Now many other girls who need a way to pay for school fees are beading wristbands and necklaces in the traditional Maasai style that are sold through Enkisoma Beads of Hope, a programme that has been initiated by Netaya. (Enkisoma means education in the Maasai language).

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Posted by on August 29, 2013 in News briefs



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