Umoja meaning “Unity” in Swahili, is a matriarchal refuge and home to the Samburu women who no longer want to suffer abuse like genital mutilation and forced marriages. The Umoja village in Kenya was founded by Rebecca Lolosoli, a Samburu woman in 1990.
According to her, she started this village as a safe haven for rape survivors, abused women, women fleeing from forced marriages and female genital mutilation.
The Umoja village has been in existence for 28 years and has been beneficial to the women who want to escape problems associated with a patriarchal society. No men are allowed in Umoja, though women who have sons are allowed to stay with their sons as long as they adhere to the laws of the village.
How was Umoja founded?
Rebecca Lolosoli the founder, had been assaulted by local men after she spoke out for women who were raped by British soldiers. When her husband turning a blind eye to the beatings meted out to her, she divorced him, and left Samburu to start Umoja with a group of women.
Since the beginning of Umoja, similar villages have arose, though these other villages allow men to stay as long as they do not dominate the women.
Rebecca being the leader dictates who is allowed in and out of the community. Rebecca has received a number of accolades for her work in Umoja. In 2005, she was invited by the United Nations to attend a conference on gender empowerment in New York.Â She also received the Vital Voices Fern Holland Global Leadership Award in 2010.
The women in the community make their income from various means such as selling jewelry to tourists who visit the nearby Samburu National Reserve. They also provide tours of the Samburu Cultural Center.
The community boasts of a school and a clinic. One of the main sources of revenue for the village is tourism, as it has a camping site for tourists looking to visit the nearby Samburu National Reserve. In addition, they also provide a guided tour of the Samburu Cultural Center and sell Samburu craft in the village. Umoja also has a fully operational school and clinic.
Watch various documentaries of Umoja below
Download 3rd edition of Urban Woman Magazine here