Umoja is a village in Kenya. The village, is an all-female matriarch village located near the town of Archers Post in Samburu County, from the capital, Nairobi . It was founded as a sanctuary for homeless survivors of violence against women, and young girls running from forced marriages.
The village was founded in 1990 by a group of 15 women (Natives of samburu) who were survivors of Abuse, rape etc. Umoja’s population has now expanded to include any women escaping child marriage, FGM (female genital mutilation), domestic violence and rape – all of which are cultural norms among the Samburu.
“Outside, women are being ruled by men so they can’t get any change,” says Seita Lengima. “The women in Umoja have freedom.”
The Samburu are closely related to the Maasai tribe, speaking a similar language. They usually live in groups of five to 10 families and are semi-nomadic pastoralists. Their culture is deeply patriarchal. At village meetings men sit in an inner circle to discuss important village issues, while the women sit on the outside, only occasionally allowed to express an opinion.
Rebecca Lolosoli is the founder of Umoja and the village matriarch. She was in hospital recovering from a beating by a group of men when she came up with the idea of a women-only community. The beating was an attempt to teach her a lesson for daring to speak to women in her village about their rights. But the beating only made her more determined.. Days after she recovered from the beating’ she left the village with 14 other women who share the same ideology with her to found Umoja village.
There are currently 47 women and 200 children in Umoja. – In case you are wondering why there seems to be a lot of children around for an all-woman village.. Here’s why.
Apparently the women of Umoja still like men and also love having babies. But since men are not permitted to lice the village, what the women do is sometimes they secretly invite men they met in the towns and get seduced by them in the nights in the comfort of their huts.
Although the inhabitants live extremely frugally, these enterprising women and girls earn a regular income that provides food, clothing and shelter for all.
Village leaders run a campsite, a kilometre away by the river, where groups of safari tourists stay. Many of these tourists, and others passing through nearby nature reserves, also visit Umoja. The women charge a modest entrance fee and hope that, once in the village, the visitors will buy jewellery made by the women in the craft centre.
One of the unique features of the Umoja community is that some of the more experienced residents train and educate women and girls from surrounding Samburu villages on issues such as early marriage and FGM.
Rebecca Lolosoli’s activism has carried on for decades now, growing more powerful with every passing year. This matriarch has given women everywhere a well-deserved pride and hope. Unwavering, Rebecca and the village women’s refusal to back down has made all the difference in their everyday lives and will continue to support their community in becoming the best it can be.