Inside the feminist village that has banned men for 25 years

There are currently 47 women and 200 children in Umoja. The number of men? Zero.

The village, situated in the grasslands of Samburu in northern Kenya, has banned men for the last 25 years according to a recent in-depth article by the Guardian

Surrounded by a "fence of thorns" and isolated from the neighbouring villages, the women-only community has become a refuge for survivors of sexual violence, rape, child marriage and female genital mutilation, which are norms in Samburu culture. 

Rebecca Lolosoli, founder of the Samburu's feminist village

Rebecca Lolosoli, founder of the Samburu's feminist village

It was founded in 1990 by Rebecca Lolosoli, described as "the village matriarch", after she recovered from a beating by a group of men for speaking to women in her village about their rights.

“Outside, women are being ruled by men so they can’t get any change,” Seita Lengima, an elderly woman tells reporter Julie Bindel. “The women in Umoja have freedom.”

One member said she ran away from her husband after one day of marriage, in 1998: “I was traded for cows by my father when I was 11 years old. My husband was 57.”

“I came here because of problems with my husband,” said another woman who says she was raped by the British Army. “The British army got me when I was collecting firewood. There were three of them. They pushed me to the ground. Since that day, I have always felt pain in my chest whenever I remember.”

The village has provided suffrage and a new lease of life for these women.

The woman of Umoja dancing

The woman of Umoja dancing

“Although the inhabitants live extremely frugally, these enterprising women and girls earn a regular income that provides food, clothing and shelter for all,” writes Bindel.

“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.”

“Every day I wake and smile to myself because I am surrounded by help and support,” says Judia, a 19-year-old who ran away from home at the age of 13 to avoid being sold into marriage. 

Read the full article about Umoja, Kenya's feminist village, on The Guardian.

Images: Getty and The Advocacy Project/Kate Cummings

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