Have you heard of the Pikolinos Maasai Project? I had vaguely remembered reading about it a while ago. I follow Olivia Palermo fashion-wise, I remember seeing her wearing very strikingly beautiful African statement necklaces. And I came across some links regarding the project she was working on, which is this.
The object of the Maasai Project is simple: to draw attention to a unique culture and its values, which are deeply rooted in family and nature, to promote the importance of the Maasai Mara, and to offer hope for a sustainable future."
Belk has an awesome relationship with Pikolinos Shoes who have partnered with the Maasai Tribe in Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania. Meet William Kikanae, Leader of the Maasai Tribe. Yes, I got to meet a real African Chief, and practically gushed like a fan girl.
We got to chat for a moment, and I asked him first, how he became the chief. He explained to me that even as a child, when out with his peers -- they would always put him in charge. He said he was always selected as the team leader. And it spread over into adulthood. He said that his community recognized that he had good leadership skills and a good heart and made him the chief. He believes that women are equal to men. That they they should have the ability to earn an income in order to care for themselves and their families. He is also the project leader of this collaboration. His wife Lilian Ole Pere is the project coordinator in Kenya. She also advises the women and helps them manage their money.
Each sandal tells a story of the Maasai women, their families, their hardship and their determination to get ahead. More than 1,000 women participate in the Maasai Project earning a stable salary – something that up until now had been reserved exclusively for the men. But most importantly, the work they are doing allows them to preserve their culture and lifestyle, and as a result of the income they receive, more than 1,000 Maasai families can access basic needs such as education, food, and medicine.
This collaboration is empowering and employing women and providing the means to create and fund a school for the over 150 Maasai children enrolled. Over 1600 Maasai families have fair wages and a stable income. The Pikolinos Maasai Project has proven that fashion is more than frivolity. It's a "vision of hopes and dreams that tells stories and builds a better future, a sustainable future."
And here is a close up of my gorgeous Maasai necklace that was gifted to me from Belk and Pikolinos.