umoja
15 Sep
  • By Vanisha May

Umoja: the land with no man.

Interested in travel? Passionate about society and women’s rights? Then you need to make this inspiring community a priority for your next big trip! Where am I talking about…? The fascinating lands of Kenya!

For more than 500 years tradition and culture have dominated the lives of Kenyans women. Living in patriarchal communities where men make the rules and women have few rights. Where rituals such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriages are common even today. This means that girls as young as 12 years old are being mutilated and married off to lives as wives and mothers. Though, this isn’t an essay or a lecture, but an informative and interesting article of why I think you should know about the land that’s like no other, the land with no man, the inspiring village of Umoja, North Kenya.

Tourism is Kenya’s second largest industry which attracts millions of tourists travelling in hopes to see the wanders of the wildlife, exploring the safaris and holiday on the white-sand beaches with the exotic marine life and exciting activities. Meanwhile in the dry lands of Northern Kenya, the women of Umoja are transforming lives and changing their own fate.

Umoja (meaning unity in Swahili) is a safe haven for women who have been abused, raped, and who are fleeing from the oppressive formalities of their culture. Located in the Samburu region, Umoja is home to almost 50 newly-empowered women and their hundreds of children. The village that is inspiring women all over the country to make possible and influential changes is also a village that has a no man policy. This is one of the first communities in the world to run as a matriarchal society prohibiting men to live there. How inspiring is that?!

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The woman behind it all is Rebecca Lolosoli (pictures above by The Guardian) who created the movement 25 years ago and formed the village with other women who revolted against their rapes committed by British soldiers and discriminating communities. Fifteen women spoke up about their horrifying abuse and decided to make change. Now they support other women living in fear of FGM, early marriage and domestic abuse from the men of Samburu. In an interview, Rebecca explained how much power the men had;

“If the husband wants to kill you, he has a right to kill you, because you are like property.”

-Rebecca Lolosoli

You can watch the short documentary here:

So, what better idea than to just leave and form a whole new village where women have rights, freedom, a voice and more importantly, safety.  The women of Umoja are living completely independently without a man for the first time in history. They’re building their own huts, forming their own businesses and they’ve even created a school for the children. And for those thinking “but how do they even have children? How can they keep this going?” as one Umoja resident explained to a Guardian reporter;

“We still like men. They are not allowed here, but we want babies and women have to have children, even if you are unmarried.” – The Guardian

Completely inspirational.

Depending on tourism, the women welcome visitors and usually with a very big, all singing and dancing celebration! Handmaking brightly coloured jewellery, clothing and gifts to sell to tourists, the money helps fund their communities and gives the women the opportunity to earn their own income and stand on their own two feet.

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img_1413Vanisha May is a criminology and sociology graduate from London. She has a passion for international development and issues related to education, crisis for refugees, conflict and gender inequalities. Her dream is to travel the world while understanding, learning and resolving inequalities faced for the affected people across the globe.

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