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All woman’s village in Kenya where they escape beatings, marriages of girls to much older men, and genital cutting

An African feminist provides an example of courageous leadership as a founder and the chief of the Umoja (unity) village for abused women in Kenya.[i] Rebecca Lolosoli is interviewed in the documentary Half the Sky (2012) where the filmmakers are greeted by women singing the vagina song, and is seen on YouTube and in a French documentary about the village. She states, “We don’t want to be cut any more. We want to be equal. We’re not the women they used to know.” No men are allowed to live in this matriarchal village because even one man would try to take control, but sons are welcome. Lolosoli was in her 20s when she left her husband to save her life, founding the village in 1990 with 14 other women of her Samburu tribe. Many of them had been raped and were therefore considered outcasts who should be beaten daily. Later they were joined by other women escaping domestic violence, young girls escaping from impending marriage to a much older man, and mothers who didn’t want their daughters to suffer genital cutting.

They make money with their bead necklaces (available online) and a campsite and cultural center for tourists, enraging men in the nearest town who have beaten the women with clubs and tried to steal their cattle and copy their money-making schemes. A chief from a nearby village called Lolosli a troublemaker, who questions cultural beliefs that “the man is the head.” She reported that the men “see us laughing, and they don’t want us to laugh. They say we are too proud because we have money, because we always walk proudly in the road, but I say, what is wrong with that?” With the money, they started a primary school for the village children but don’t have electricity. (The Half the Sky DVD interviews a shopkeeper who says men buy sodas and women buy milk for their children.)

[i] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1azZgR3ujo

http://www.umojawomen.org/ The village website includes links to articles in the Western press.

http://parlourmagazine.com/2012/04/in-kenya-the-umoja-village-is-for-women-only/ This link includes a 2012 video interview with a village resident named Rose who came to the village because her husband beat her and their children. She says they want to build a high school.

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