Umoja Village in the grasslands of Samburu, in northern Kenya, is a unique place. It is inhabited only by women, their children and livestock. No men are allowed. Most of the women that live there are the survivors of rape, domestic abuse, child marriage, or female genital mutilation (FGM).
THE VILLAGE WAS FOUNDED BY RAPE SURVIVORS AS A SAFE SPACE FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR CHILDREN.
Surrounded by a protective fence of thorns, Umoja is a village in the grasslands of Samburu, in the north of Kenya. Goats munch and chickens peck and scratch, while children play and women make jewellery to sell to tourists. Their nimble fingers work quickly as they talk and laugh with each other. It is a typical Samburu village scene, except for one thing: no men live here.
In Umoja village the women wear the traditional Samburu dress of patterned skirts, brightly coloured shirts and a kanga, the colourful wrap tied about their shoulders. The ornate necklaces, made of strings of brightly coloured beads, form stunning circular patterns around their necks. The colourful clothing contrasts starkly with the arid surroundings, and the African sun that picks out the dust motes in the air.
The village was originally founded in 1990 by a group of 15 women who were survivors of rape by soldiers. Umoja’s population has since expanded to include any woman escaping child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), domestic violence and rape – all of which are cultural norms among the Samburu.
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