Kenyan Village Exclusively Inhabited By Women Celebrates 25th Birthday

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Deep in the heart of Samburuland in remote northern Kenya, a village inhabited exclusively by women is celebrating its 25th birthday.

Begun in 1990 by Rebecca Lolosoli, Umoja is a haven for women and girls who have suffered sexual and domestic violence and rape.

Chief: Campaigner Rebecca Lolosoli, pictured, started the village in 1990 with 14 other women
Chief: Campaigner Rebecca Lolosoli, pictured, started the village in 1990 with 14 other women

But while women are welcome, men are not – a stance that has aroused much ire among local men and led to threats against Mrs Lolosoli.

Nevertheless, she says she will continue to fight for the rights of Samburu women while tackling the problem of female genital mutilation.

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The village, which sits just outside the Samburu National Reserve, was begun 25 years ago as a sanctuary for abused girls and women fleeing forced marriage.

Women only: The village is inhabited exclusively by women and children, with no men allowed in
Women only: The village is inhabited exclusively by women and children, with no men allowed in

Originally home to 15 women, numbers have since increased and the village now has its own clinic and school.

Bead making is the principal source of money, although the women supplement their income by running a campsite for tourists on the edge of the village.

Traditional: Although feminists in many respects, village life follows a traditional Samburu pattern
Traditional: Although feminists in many respects, village life follows a traditional Samburu pattern

‘We saved for months for the down payment, it cost 200,000 shillings ($2,700),’ writes Mrs Lolosoli on the village website.

‘After we applied for the land, men came and beat us saying women should not own land. They said this was because of me and that they had to shoot me to get their women to be women again.’

Self-sufficient: The women survive by making beads to sell to tourists and by running a campsite
Self-sufficient: The women survive by making beads to sell to tourists and by running a campsite

They did not succeed and today, the village has become so successful, a sister village named Unity has been built nearby.

Intricate: The women are their own best adverts when it comes to jewellery and wear traditional beads
Intricate: The women are their own best adverts when it comes to jewellery and wear traditional beads

Nevertheless, some of the women remain traumatised by their past experiences – not least those who were raped, some, they claim, by British soldiers stationed in the area.

Escape: All of the women are drawn from the Samburu tribe, which has a rigidly patriarchal culture
Escape: All of the women are drawn from the Samburu tribe, which has a rigidly patriarchal culture

The cases were investigated by lawyer Martyn Day, who is infamous for pursuing false claims against British soldiers filed by Iraqis who said troops had ‘murdered and tortured’ detainees.

But after an investigation by the Royal Military Police concluded there was no foundation to any of the claims, Day told the Guardian that pursuing the allegations would be ‘difficult’.

Beautiful: The village occupies a picturesque stretch of land on the edge of the Samburu National Reserve
Beautiful: The village occupies a picturesque stretch of land on the edge of the Samburu National Reserve

Others complain of the effects of the patriarchal culture of the Samburu tribe which insists on a subordinate role for women and girls.

One particularly eye-opening practice is that of ‘temporary marriage’ for teenage girls who are paired up with older warriors chosen by their fathers.

Doing well: So successful has the women's village proved, a sister settlement named Unity has been started
Doing well: So successful has the women’s village proved, a sister settlement named Unity has been started

More were married off to husbands who were more than three times their age, including one resident named Mary, now 34, who was just 16 when she was sold to an 80-year-old man for a herd of cows.

Hard work: The villagers say that despite the hard work involved, they love living at Umoja
Hard work: The villagers say that despite the hard work involved, they love living at Umoja

Another, named Jane, told the Guardian that she fled to the village to escape an abusive husband and brought her children along.

Stance: The village council refuses to countenance early marriage and educates others about FGM
Stance: The village council refuses to countenance early marriage and educates others about FGM

‘I want my children to be free to marry who they choose for themselves,’ she told the newspaper.

And in Umoja, where the elders who run the village refuse to countenance child marriage or FGM, her faith doesn’t appear to be misplaced.

Escape: Many of the villagers were themselves victims of early marriage and first wed as teenagers
Escape: Many of the villagers were themselves victims of early marriage and first wed as teenagers

Source: Daily Mail 

 

 

SEE ALSO: CNN Apologizes To Kenya For Referring To It As A ‘Hotbed Of Terror’

 

 

 

 


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