Beads & Business: Sishemo Studio Opens in Nakatindi Village

By Victoria Foord, AKP Zambia Coordinator

ZAMBIA | In 2017, AKP Zambia began initial investigations into the potential for a new women-led enterprise in Nakatindi Village. It was clear from the huge success of the Chipego Bike Shop launched in 2015 that Nakatindi held significant potential for extraordinary economic empowerment initiatives, and we set out to find just that. And now, after 2 years of research, development, fundraising, training and construction we are thrilled to announce the official opening of the Sishemo Bead Studio in Nakatindi!

Sishemo (meaning “mercy” in Lozi) are a group of 8 local community members, all identified for the project by the community leadership with support from the Ministry of Community Development, based on their vulnerability and potential.

The 8 artisans range from 21 to 65 years old, and collectively support over 40 family members and dependents, of which 14 are children. Their households bring in an average of around $50 per month through informal piece work and some have had to resorted to sex work to feed their families. Employment opportunities in Nakatindi are extremely limited, particularly for women and for those who did not complete their education. 50% of the Sishemo members report regularly being unable to pay school fees for their children, and just 2 of the members completed their own secondary education due to lack of funding for school fees.

Through the Sishemo Bead enterprise, these women have chance to dramatically improve their livelihoods, and the health, education and prospects of their families.

In 2018, the group underwent intensive training in how to make glass beads using traditional African techniques. The glass is recycled from discarded bottles from Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma and the kiln is made from locally-sourced bricks and termite-mound clay. The artisans painstakingly fire and shape each bead by hand, creating unique shapes, colors and designs. These beads are then used to make one-of-a-kind necklaces, bracelets, earrings and other bead products.

On July 17, 2019 the community came together to celebrate the official opening of the Sishemo Bead Studio. The Livingstone City Mayor joined the festivities, and did the honors of cutting the ribbon and planting a ceremonial tree outside the Studio to mark the occasion. The Mayor was joined by the Ward Councilor, District Officer for the Ministry of Community Development, representatives from the local MP’s office and management from Sanctuary Retreats Sussi & Chuma alongside the community leadership, representatives from other AKP projects and adults and children from across the village. Nakatindi truly came out in style to celebrate their new flagship project, and the event was even featured on the local TV news station, ZNBC!

After 2 years of project development, the Sishemo Bead Studio is now generating income for the artisans and is quickly blossoming into thriving enterprise, the impact of which will be felt throughout the community for years to come.

Guests touring Nakatindi village during their stay in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park can visit the Sishemo Studio, learn how to make recycled glass beads and try their hand at making a bracelet – for more information please contact the AKP team!