On the Maasai Mara, a national reserve named in honor of the indigenous Maasai warrior tribe, the people co-exist with lions, leopards, and cheetahs as well as frequent migrations of zebras, gazelles, and wildebeests. Here, the Spanish flagship brand Pikolinos set out on their mission – “Another world is possible” – and started a partnership as a way for the native population to foster their culture.
The pieces of leather are cut in Spain to work with Maasai designs and sent to Maasai Mara, where they are distributed among the Maasai Manyattas (settlements) involved in the project. There on the African savannah, thousands of miles away from the leather’s origins, Maasai women embroider the leather pieces with the distinctive insignias, colors, and designs of their culture. The embroidered pieces are then sent back to Spain, where the footwear is completed at Pikolinos’ manufacturing facility and released through their distribution channels. The final result is a collection of exclusive sandals that reflect the unique heritage of their culture.
Now in its sixth year, the Maasai project employs hundreds of women who have become the breadwinners of their community. The Pikolinos Maasai Project enables more than 1,000 families in Kenya and Tanzania to preserve their culture and lifestyle with the subsequent income giving access to basic needs such as education, food, and medicine.
The collaboration between Pikolinos and the Maasai provides hope and opportunity for a sustainable future by building Maasai economic resources while empowering voiceless women with greater rights and employment.
“The Maasai Project represents an opportunity for these women to create a life for themselves and their families.”
The collaboration could not have been accomplished without the dedicated help of Maasai Chief, Kikanae Ole Pere, also known as William. William has undertaken a long journey to raise awareness within the Maasai community and to inspire them to build a sustainable future via their own economic resources outside of tourism. William teamed up with Pikolinos and ADCAM (the Association for Development, Alternative Trade, and Micro-credits), which is dedicated to fostering social projects across the world. With help from the Maasai Project team and Pikolinos, William aims to promote the ideas that women can own property, make decisions, and opt not to get married before they are 18, as well as to ensure that all children receive an education. With the financial independence created by the Pikolinos project, his vision is becoming a reality.
“We knew the project would work when we conveyed the idea to the women and they felt they were able to do it. This was confirmed during the first training session when we saw that they were quick learners; they had fun, took it seriously, and met our deadlines and quality standards,” says Chief William. “The initial challenge was to find a company that understood the project and was willing to manufacture products that were sustainable over time. Once we found Pikolinos, the rest solved itself. In general, our biggest issue was that it was hard to convince the men in the community that the work wouldn’t change their lives and also that they would benefit from it.”
Naturalness, creativity, teamwork, excellence, and solidarity are the driving forces behind the partnership. William is optimistic about the project’s future and its continued impact on the Maasai community. Through the Maasai project, Pikolinos empowers the women of the Maasai Mara one family at a time and provides the consumer with a pair of unique, high quality shoes, that incorporate Maasai culture and the personality and accomplishments of the women who made them.
Another world is possible.
All photos courtesy of Pikolinos
Chief William Kikanae