Most of the people, especially the travelers from all around the world seems to know about the famous tribe in Kenya, The Maasai Mara. But the little known about this village – Umoja.
I was spending my 25th birthday here, in Umoja Village where men are banned – Samburu, Kenya.
My name is Amiko, an ordinary woman from a small country, Laos. The citizenship holds only 19 countries Visa-Free passport, very little, I know that. I was planning to do something majestic before turning 25th.
The one continent I always wanted to visit after I watched that “Lion King” movie, I first saw it when I was six. Most of the people in my circle would travel to Europe for their fancy trip, but not me. For me, Africa is a diverse place to see and learn from. I was saving, and I have done some research about this continent on “Where to go & What to do”, and here you go, I found this village after years of saving and months of doing the research, “Umoja – village for women, where men are banned”.
The Umoja village was formed in 1990 by Rebecca Lolosoli, the victim of domestic violence, you can find the village with this six-hour drive to Samburu, from the busy Nairobi the capital of this beautiful land.
The village of women for women, the village is a refuge for girls and women, who have suffered from genital mutilation, rape, forced marriage, and spousal abuse. Widows and orphans are also part of the Umoja group which numbers just under 50 members. To provide security and as a means of pooling resources and skills.
Umoja women support themselves and their children through their creative skills with beadwork and crafts. The village also creates income by collecting entrance fees from visitors/Tourism. Furthermore, they are starting to be some hands from an international organization that would come in and put the efforts into helping them.
Rebecca, the founder of the village had told me the stories of the women in the village and of course the stories of herself, how she began this village. And the pain she had gone through in her life.
Rebecca, Sinja (my tour guide) and I, three of us were in the middle of the village for almost an hour, just standing there listening to her stories and exchanging a lot of things. I was lucky enough to have Rebecca there at the village, it is hard to meet her in person because she’s always out to the villages within Kenya helping, encouraging and acknowledged the women from each village of their rights as a woman is. As well as acknowledged the girls’ parents, that their daughters have rights to go to school, have the right to choose the man she’s going to marry, and etc.,
As listening to the stories, I can see the pain, struggle, fear, sadness, and hope in her eyes and from her voice. The things she been through her entire life, how she founded the village to help the women in Kenya.
Before starting the village, Rebecca was secretly helping and giving out hands to those women who needed help, money, and food. The family of her husband found out and accused her of the actions that she was giving away their properties. When her husband was away, the family was beating her up and left her to death. Fortunately, there were people that were not even from Samburu took her to hospital.
At that time, she still needs to be with her husband because she was waiting for her children to be old enough, and then she can leave the hell she was in. Rebecca left her husband and his family with nothing but clothes on her body and her children to start the new life.
Not as good as it sounds, even though she had started a new life at the Umoja Village, there are still men that would come to her because they want to end her life. And blaming her for founding the village as their wives are starting to move to the village. Unaware, the women left their husbands because of the violence their men created not because of Rebecca and Umoja village.
After a big while of talking, Rebecca walked me around the village. It was the First time that she did this personal tour for the visitor. It was an honor for me to be that visitor, Rebecca. She showed me the house they are living in. She was introducing me to the ladies and explained a lot of things to me. The processing of how they built the house, how long does it take, how they rule and run the village.
Please do not get it wrong that men are not allowed in the village. Tourists are welcome in all gender, also the men that want to see their wives. A village is a safe place for their physical and mental. The ladies who feel threatened by men are always welcome to the village at any time. As well as they are also free to go back to the husband if they wanted to.
As the village is growing older, the kids of ladies are growing older as well. The daughter and sons of the village have the opportunity to go to the nearby school within a distance of 5 minutes’ walk from the village. The school was supported by an international organization. Rebecca and the ladies are supporting and tell the kids that they need to go to school because knowledge is the light of life.
From the first day of founding the village until today, there are still some people that are not happy with the village itself. There were men who would come to the village and tried to Kill Rebecca. Men who would come in a group and tried to rape the wife and take her back. None of that happened because the ladies stuck together, help each other fight back and get their rights back.
“The Sons of Women” – is the name men from another village called the sons of these ladies, it was their way to express hatred because those sons are helping and protecting these ladies.
If you asked me, I’d answer that name as the right word to call the sons in the village. All of us were giving birth to this world by women. My mom is a woman, yours also is, his/hers also is. Without them or us, “Women”, there would not be such a living in this world.
Nature created Women and Men to be partners, to be a pair. They need each other to create lives. We should be embracing that and help each other after all.
Rebecca is not only helping the women in Kenya, but she’s sending out the message to the world that, us, Women, are strong and powerful, we have rights to be and to do as men are.
Rebecca has been traveling outside of the country as well, in March 2011, Rebecca meets Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during Women in the World Summit, in New York. And she has been participating in many of the fora as speaker of the events.
This is a short story about Rebecca and the women there, this is the story they have created. And all of us ladies are creating ours as well.
The purpose of my visit to the village was that, I really want to spread this brave story and tell the world how brave they are and how strong they can be if they are stick together.
This issue is something we can see all around the world, it exists everywhere even in my home country, but the victims are too afraid to speak out and take an initiation on doing something.
I hope to send out this message to the people out there, it does not matter what your gender is. If you are the victim facing the violence, speak out and get help! I know it is not easy for anyone out there. If you are willing to seek for help, I’m sure that there are plenty of people and organizations that would help you.
I’m happy to be there, supporting them as a woman to women on my birthday.
Thank you for reading my first article, I’ll share another one soon, finger crossed! xoxo