Kenyan soapstone, known as ‘kisii,’ is found in the country’s fertile western Tabaka hills, one of the most densely populated areas in Kenya. Here, income from kisii soapstone carving helps ensure that families have shelter over their heads and hope for the future.
Traditionally, entire families are involved in the process. Men do the carving, using a large knife to form the rough shapes and a smaller knife for the intricate details. Once the sculptures have been sanded smooth, the women take over, washing, drying and waxing the pieces to create a lustrous finish.
In Kenya, the creation of kisii stonework enables families to earn an income, build permanent homes, improve plots of land and send their children to school. Soapstone carving is the primary source of income for some 15,000 families residing in the Tabaka hills.
Kisii has one of the highest incidence of death of women of childbearing age, in the world. The lifetime risk of maternal death for women is Sub-Saharan Africa 1 in 39. In the United States, it is 1 in 2,400. In Sweden it is 1 in 14,100.
In Kenya, however, the maternal mortality rate is 488 per 100,000 live births. In Kisii county the maternal mortality rate is even higher at 500 per 100,000 live births. This is indeed above the national average. Economic deprivation, or poverty among women is the leading contributor to maternal death in Kisii.
Poverty leads to delayed access to transport, lack of money for user fees. Other challenges related to lack money include distances from a hospital distance. Hospital experiences included; delay in service provision by staff, delayed quality emergency obstetric care and delayed care while at the hospital, unavailability of blood for transfusion, and lack of money for drugs, were reported as major challenges which attributed to maternal death.
The goal of Ubrica Live Mothers Live Babies Campaign is to connect families living and working in Tabaka hills to find market for products of Kisii stone. This will help improve economic conditions of Kisii families, and ultimately reduce the incidence of death of mothers.
Osoro, A. A., Ng’ang’a, Z., Mutugi, M., Wanzala, P. (2014) Maternal Mortality among Women Seeking Health Care Services in Kisii Level 5 Hospital. Retrieved from https://www.tenthousandvillages.ca/kisii