Umoja village, Kenyan women sanctuary where men are banned

Umoja village from its conception as an idea to its current of success is the true definition of the phrase, “against all odds’. 

The village came into existence as women ran away from the oppressive patriarchal practices in the Samburu tribe. Women wanted respect, they wanted to be noticed and they wanted to have a voice.

Rebecca Lolosoli and a group of women decided they would not wait for anyone to give them what they needed they went out and made it happen.

The village is in Kenya and was founded in 1990 by Rebecca Lolosoli and a group of women who did not believe in the forced subordination of women. The name of the village (Umoja) is Swahili meaning unity. The name is symbolic of life led by the women in the village. It also symbolizes the strength they draw from their unity to overcome different challenges they ran from, to come and find sanctuary in their matriarchy.

Inhabitants of the village are mostly women running away from the illegal (but still practiced) female genital mutilation, forced child marriages, domestic violence, and inequality in their patriarchal societies. The women in the Samburu tribe cannot own land or any form of property, instead, they are regarded as the property of their husbands or any male authoritative figure including their fathers.

The village is open to women from all over who are seeking sanctuary, freedom, and healing from the ills of patriarchy. Some of the inhabitants of Umoja are women who were chased away from their villages by their husbands after being raped by soldiers. The stories vary but the trauma remains regardless.

The women in Umoja have found healing in the strength and a shared desire to be independent. Umoja is a sign that women are not dependants neither are they unable, but just as strong and sometimes stronger than men. After the establishment of Umoja men tried attacking the village, with others attempting to kill Rebecca, without success. There were attempts to establish similar male villages all of which failed.