It is high time we all recognized Rebecca Lolosoli for her endless efforts in creating a ‘safe space’ for women in Samburu county. As a result, in the year 1990, a village was birthed and was named Umoja Uaso. A village that would become a solace to many women in the county. A community governed in the matriarchal system as well emerged. A structure where women are in charge of their well-being economically, politically and socially.
Rebecca and other feminists decided to be the voice of many women in the Samburu communal. They felt the need to empower women. They took action against the oppression faced by women in the Samburu area in an attempt to promote equality in the male chauvinistic community. The following are the main reasons that led to the rise of the Umoja village.
What led to the establishment of Umoja village
A number of factors contributed to the rise of Umoja village. A village where no male gender can set a foot. However, it begs the question what did the men do to deserve such a treatment. Well, it might surprise you what men did to earn this punishment as I would address it. Some of these factors included:
- Escape from the traditional customs that oppressed women
Some of these practices are female genital mutilation(FGM) and forced child marriages. The government has made resolves to create awareness in the dangers of conducting FGM. But some communities like the Samburu still remain adamant. Despite the many side effects that come with the mutilation and even sometimes death. The communities which are mostly governed by the men insist that it is a rite of passage and must be adhered to.
- Domestic violence
Most of the women were brutally abused by their husbands. Others even had serious wounds from the battering they received from the so called men they took as husbands.
It would surprise you of how these women were often raped by soldiers. Following such an incident the husbands would erroneously chase them from there matrimonial homes in the fear of contracting STIs or HIV/AIDS.
The Gender Inequality in the society
Women were not offered the same opportunities as men. Women could not own land or any kind of property. As a matter of fact, the women themselves were treated as property to their husbands and fathers as well as any man in authority. They could be inherited, in case the husband died.
Every woman had a story to tell. Their experiences were occasionally traumatizing. Their pain brought them together. With the help of Rebecca and other women too who said enough is enough and had to come together and strive to fend for themselves.
Accomplishing Umoja village was not a walk in the park. The men came in with resistance to try and dismantle the village. Rebecca herself was faced with death rates from the men in the community. Failure to which they decided they would form a similar male village which also proved futile in the end.
With all these drawbacks threatening the existence of a male free society, Rebecca and her colleagues did not give in. This even encouraged more women to back her up. For instance, those that had ran away for their safety even came back. Rules were set not to allow men to live among them. Even their male children. Once they were 18 years of age they were allowed to leave and they would even offer more protection top them against the rebellious community of men who still could not give in to the women’s prosperity.
A safe haven is here for all women. Women can now own land and even to speak freely and contribute to the development of their village. For instance there is little traditional practices that mainly sort to enslave them. They are now calling the shots!
Benefits of this set up to women at large
Umoja village became the oasis most women of Samburu were looking for in the different forms of desert they found themselves in. A shoulder to lean on. And an escape from the male dominated world. For instance Women became more independent. There was such a tremendous healing and restoration.
It expounded more on the strength of a woman. Eventually they came to own the land they sort sanctuary in. A school was established to cater for their children and the community at large. The women also ventured in farming to help them increase their income. Furthermore organized themselves in such a manner that through their gifted talents of making beads, they can create earnings.
They have also become an awe to the country at large. Attracting people from all walks of the world to come and witness for themselves how women have been transformed. They also charge for the small tours they render to the tourists. Thereby adding to their income kitty.
Umoja women have just proved to many women that they can be agents for change. They can also advocate for women’s rights and even go as far as implementing them. Moreover, Umoja women is evidence enough that women can effect leadership roles and in fact bring major developments not only to the community but to the country at large.