Empowered by Embroidery: Robe Dibo’s story

Robe Dibo, 45 and a mother of 6, runs a small embroidery business in Elgade Sub location, Marsabit County. 

She taught herself how to sew and embroider clothes.  Her husband is a pastoralist and is away from home for many months at a time due to shifting weather patterns and drought.  In his absence, life has been difficult and she had to seek a livelihood activity to keep the family going.   With stoic resilience, she started a home-based embroidery business in 2014 in her own village in Elgade Sub location and has never looked back. 

But Robe’s story doesn’t end there.  Her fortunes began to shift after she joined Elgade Women Group back in 2014.  She received a loan of Kes. 30,000 (USD 300) to launch her own small embroidery enterprise from the group’s revolving fund.

Elgade Women Group is one of the self-help groups in Marsabit County, that have received entrepreneurship training with support from REGAL-IR Project and the Marsabit County Government.  

“REGAL-IR helped me learn new skills over time.  I now work on different types of fabric and can sell more,” says Ms. Dibo.

Putting what she learned into practice, she has lately witnessed a rise in her customers as well as in income. In order to respond to a growing demand for her products in the local market,  she employs a unique technique to decorate traditional head wears and Kikoi’s worn during cultural events and weddings by Gabra Men.  She is the only person involved in this kind of business in the area and customers who used to source for these items from across the border in Ethiopia, now visit her embroidery shop for her services.  

She is also involved in creative bead work that is by worn by both males and Females – a very smart business move.   As her business continues to grow, she is optimistic she will move to a bigger store this year. 

 “People come to my shop to buy my attractive bead work,” she says proudly. “It’s easy to sell them and it also gives me a chance to showcase my skills and artistic talent in embroidery.

Robe is still repaying the loan she borrowed to start the business and makes a repayment of Kes. 2,750 per month (USD 27.50) using the income from her trade.   

The REGAL-IR project has empowered Robe and other women in  Kenya's northern frontier with new knowledge and confidence. 

“I make good sales during wedding and other cultural months, I no longer wait for my husband to return home for me to pay my debts or feed my children”, says Ms. Robe

Robe who has two children in Secondary school says she is paying school fees from the proceeds of her business.

“My future plan is to open up a bigger shop and employ other women to do the embroidery work." She proudly says.