130. Beth Nyambura
An interview with an artisan: Beth Nyambura
Beth Nyambura, single-mum of two and bead artisan working with the Ethical Fashion Initiative in Nairobi.
Chloé Mukai: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Beth Nyambura: I am Beth Nyambura, 24 years-old and I have two children: one is 6 and the other is 1. How long have you been working here? Two years. Before that what were you doing? Nothing! Just doing casual work: washing clothes for others, doing laundry (note: almost all the inhabitants of Korogocho slum work in the informal sector, doing casual work like laundry, selling food produce in the street). How did you find this job? I came asking for a job and I was absorbed. Lucy, the supervisor, trained me. So are you from the area? How did you know that there was work here? Yes, I come from Korogocho (one of the largest slums in Kenya) and I used to visit this workshop and I saw women working, so I asked for a job. Before starting this job did you already have skills in beadwork? No I didn’t… I was trained by another artisan called Lucy. I am not perfect yet, I am still training on the job. How do you find this job? It’s very good: it helps me pay school fees for my children and to feed them well. Weren’t they in school before? They were, but to very poor schools. Now they go to a better school that I can afford. Tell us about the work with the other ladies? It is good and boosts my moral. Working together makes me confident. I can be corrected if I am wrong. One of the challenges is that sometimes, I cannot keep up with the pace of others. When there is a big order, I can make fewer pieces compared to the others, which means my skills are still not perfect. But I am improving. What is the best thing about your job? Now that I am working, I am not idle and I don’t stay at home. I come here and keep myself busy. What is your dream? Even a crazy one. My first dream is to get my skills perfected and to be able to train others. Then, with the money I would save I would like to open my own business. I want to take care of my children and for them to go beyond the level I reached and get better education. Can we talk a little bit about you? What artists or people in general do you like? Jennifer Lopez. Her music is very beautiful and sentimental to me. I also like Lupita Nyong’o (Kenyan actress, ‘12 Years A Slave’, ‘Star Wars Episode VII’). Because she has not lost her identity, she respects her culture despite not living in Kenya. How about in fashion: do you have a favourite designer? I do not know the name, but I like this Nigerian designer. What is your favourite food? Ugali (Eastern African cornmeal-based dish), rice, mukimo (traditional food mixture of maize, beans and veggies). Do you like living in Nairobi?
For now yes, because I need the money I earn here, but once I have made enough money I would like to move because Nairobi is stuffed. I will move to the rural area, like Murang’a or another area outside of Nairobi. Murang’a is about a five hour drive. What brings the most happiness in your day? My work. But I also like to spend time with my friends and to see other parts of Kenya.
Above and opposite (top): Since joining the Initiative two years ago, Beth has considerably improved her beadwork skills and now works on orders for clients such as sass & bide in Australia (as seen here). The LOVE MORE pouch, made in Kenya for sass & bide. Opposite (below): Working at Bega Kwa Bega translates into much needed income, but also a dignified work environment where she can interact with fellow women artisans from Korogocho.
“(Work) boosts my moral. Working together makes me confident. I can be corrected if I am wrong.”