Umoja village, an only women village, was founded and inspired by a strong desire to overcome and conquer the subordination of women and violence against women in Kenya.
Umoja means “unity” in Swahili, implying that women in this community are united against women relegation, subordination and violence against them.
This village, an all female matriarch village was founded in 1990, close to the town of Achers Post in Samburu County, not far from the capital Nairobi.
Umoja village which began as a refuge for survivors of sexual violence has metamorphosed into a renowned community and a spectacular phenomenon attracting attention all over the world.
The village was founded by a visionary woman in 1990, called Rebecca Lolosoli, a Samburu woman who serves as the leader of the village and regulates who is allowed in and out of the community. The idea, according to her started as a safe haven for rape survivors, abused women, women fleeing from forced marriages and female genital mutilation among others. In Samburu, women are regarded as second class citizens and do not have the right to own land, livestock or attend school and worse when a woman is childless.
Umoja therefore was established by women for women, to provide security, refuge, succor, freedom and a platform for women to meet their aspirations.
Men are not allowed in this village, however women who have sons are allowed to stay in Umoja as long as they follow the rules and laws of the village.
This village has been helpful to women who want to escape the problems of a male dominated society with its attendant problems not limited to violence against women.
Rebecca Lolosoli the founder, when she spoke out for the women who were raped by British Soldiers, was assaulted by the local men and when her husband turned a blind eye to the terrible assault meted out to her, she divorced him and left Samburu, setting out to start Umoja with a group of women.
I must say that her courage to do this against all odds in that clime where women are totally relegated to the background is salutable and commendable and we all must rise up to put a stop to violence against women in whatever form around the globe been what Umoja represents. Global estimates published by WHO, indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women in the world have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. In Samburu, Kenya, a woman has a 95% chance of being beaten by her husband.
The women in Umoja have risen up to the challenge and developed their own economy in the community and make their income from various means such as selling jewelry to tourists who visit the nearby Samburu National Reserve. They also provide tour services to the visitors of the Samburu cultural centre and sell Samburu craft in the village. Umoja also operates fully functional school and clinic.