Umoja, a village in the grasslands of Samburu, in northern Kenya , is an all-female matriarch village located in near the town of Archers Post in the grasslands of Samburu County , 380 km from the capital, Nairobi .
Rebecca Lolosoli is the matriarch of the Umoja Women’s Village and an advocate for women’s rights. She along with several other women, who were all survivors of violence by men, established the village in 1990. Umoja means ‘unity’ in Swahili.
Samburu culture is patriarchal and women have to face the horrors of child marriage, female genital mutilation , domestic violence and rape on an everyday basis. Umoja was founded because of this.
Samburu tribes are closely related to the Maasai tribes and the both of them speak a similar language. They usually live in groups of five to 10 families and are semi-nomadic pastoralists.
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. Umoja’s first members all came from the isolated Samburu villages dotted across the Rift valley.
Lolosoli had learned of women who had been raped by British soldiers training nearby, so she began to speak up to help them. In retaliation, neighborhood men beat her, and when her husband did not protest the beatings, she left him, and later founded the village.
Since then, women who hear of the village go there to settle down and learn how to trade, raise their children and live without fear of male violence and discrimination.
To sustain themselves, the women sell jewelry to tourists who visit them. For the purpose of housing tourists, the village leaders run a campsite a kilometer away from the village. With the money the women earned, they built a school for their children and those in surrounding villages and eventually purchased the land they live on.