Umoja, Kenya

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For the suburb of Nairobi, see Umoja, Nairobi.

Umoja ("unity" in Swahili), a village in Kenya , founded in 1990, is an all-female matriarch village located in near the town of Archers Post in Samburu County, 380 km (240 mi) from the capital, Nairobi. It was founded by Rebecca Lolosoli, a Samburu woman, as a sanctuary for homeless survivors of violence against women, and young girls running from forced marriages. The women of the Samburu people do not agree with violence and the traditional subordinate position of women.

They run a primary school, cultural center and camping site for tourists visiting the adjacent Samburu National Reserve. They create and sell jewellery to benefit the village.

People of Umoja[edit]

Singing Samburu women (shooting location unknown)

Rebecca Lolosoli[edit]

Rebecca was born in 1962 in the village of Wamba (Swahili Wamba). She received a primary education, and was married at the age of 18. Her husband Fabiano David Lolosoli allowed Rebecca to trade and deal with the issues of rape. This angered the other men in the village - they beat Fabiano, and Rebecca decided to get away from him, so as not to incur the wrath of neighbors. In 1990, she, along with 14 other women founded the Umoja and began to sell food products. In 1992, they switched to selling beads.

In 2009, Rebecca's husband was held at gunpoint by an assailant trying to find his wife, but she was not home.

Lolosoli has been repeatedly elected as chairperson of the village and is also chair of her local chapter of Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO), a nonprofit, voluntary group working to improve the lives of women and youth in Kenya. Lolosoli received the Global Leadership Award from Vital Voices in 2010. She continues to fight for a woman's right to make decisions, own land and run a business, and she works tirelessly to end harmful and unsafe cultural practices and violence against women. She plans to run for local office and will be the first Samburu woman ever to do so.[1]


The subordinate position of women in Samburu - female genital mutilation, forced marriage with the elders (in Samburu, women can only marry the elder), rape, beatings, etc. - contributed to the creation of Umoja.

Umoja was originally settled by women who reported that, after being raped by British soldiers, they were driven from their home, or their husbands tried to kill them, citing that "his wife was raped "dishonours" her husband". Umoja is working with a lawyer Martin Dai, who says that due to the fact that in the case of a guilty plea, a British citizen Kenyan compensation is paid, but emphasizes that one of the first two hundred reports of rape he did not find any false. British military expressed their willingness to cooperate on the issue of rape of the women Samburu tribe, but was requested to investigate their representatives.

Daily life[edit]

The village looks like a normal village in Samburu: huts are built from a mixture of earth and cow dung, and the houses are surrounded by a fence of thorns.


In 2006, Umoja reported residency consisted of 50 women and 220 children.


Residents of Umoja are engaged in traditional Samburu crafts - such as colorful beads and home-brewed low-alcohol beer analogue - that they sell by the road leading to the Samburu Reserve and on its website. This allows them to earn enough money to live.


In traditional society, children are engaged in Samburu grazing with six or seven years, but in the village of Umoja all children go to school. Residents themselves have the opportunity to attend a school where they are learning to read, write, arithmetic, typing, and other basic skills .


Umoja operates a short set of rules. Women have to wear traditional clothes and beads. Smoking and genital mutilation are discouraged. Women may hire men for grazing, fencing village briars, and other forms of manual labor. Umoja women also help educate women of nearby villages about women's rights, gender equality and violence prevention.


Arid region of Samburu and flooding rivers Evas-Ngiri periodically threaten the existence of the village.

In conventional Kenyan patriarchal settlements, women are treated as property. The women of Umoja have repeatedly been threatened with violence and periodically attack. Men tried to establish a rival village a kilometer from Umoja. Residents of the nearby town of Archers Post in 2005, tried to stop a car from going into the reserve. There are no divorce laws in Samburu, so the husbands of the other village periodically try to have authorities return their wives to them. Men from the neighboring village have threatened Rebecca Lolosoli against attending her invitation to the New York Conference of the United Nations on gender equality.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide". Retrieved 2015-08-18. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 0°38′N 37°38′E / 0.633°N 37.633°E / 0.633; 37.633