Umoja Women’s Village
The village was founded 1990 by Rebecca Lolosoli, a Samburu Woman who created a home to survivors of violence; a safe haven for young girls and women seeking refuge to escape forced marriages and FGM.
It is an all-female matriarch village located near Archer’s post in Samburu County adjacent to Samburu National Reserve. The village is made up of Manyatta huts built from a mixture of cow dung, bamboo and twigs. They all wear traditional attire.
Rebecca was attacked for daring to speak up about women’s rights to the women in her village. The beating was said to be a lesson which other women should learn from to know their place in the society.
The first members of the Umoja Women’s Village, all came from isolated Samburu villages, which are dotted across the Rift Valley. Since then, women and girls who have heard about the refuge go and learn how to trade, how to raise their children and how to live without fear of male violence and discrimination.
Today, the village is a sanctuary to over 45 women with numbers growing each day and about 200 children in the village. Samburu men are not allowed to enter the village.
From the city of Nairobi it takes about six hours to arrive to this magical village. There are lots of features you shall come across including a number of wildlife and crossing of the equator.
Upon arrival you shall be welcomed by the Samburu women through their warm songs and lovely dances. After the welcome ceremony they will show you around their beautiful sanctuary while explaining to you about their past and present situation.
Apart from creating and selling their own artifacts and jewelry, these strong women run a primary school that provides education facilities for them and the community at large.
They make beaded jewelry and other crafts to sell in their curio shop. Also, they individually and collectively own livestock and operate a group savings system. The profits from these endeavors assist to sustain the women and contribute to covering the medical fees any members incur. In addition, the profits are used to ensure the upkeep of a campsite and cultural centre for tourists, and to operate a preschool which is open to Umoja’s members and the surrounding community.
The women have a great sense of community, sharing their Manyattas, food and even chores such as building and repairing of the houses and also cleaning. Through all their challenges like the constant humiliation and rebellion from men from neighbouring villages or of hyenas and other wild animals preying on their children and livestock, they seem to remain resilient and possess a hospitable nature among other great qualities, acting as an immense inspiration to many women like me.