Somewhere in Samburu County (about six hours from Nairobi, Kenya) lies Umoja, an all-female matriarch village where men are absolutely not allowed … yes, you heard me right. Umoja, which means “unity” in the Swahili language was founded by Rebecca Lolosoli, a Samburu woman in 1990 to serve as a safe haven for rape survivors and for women escaping abuse, forced marriages and female genital mutilation.
After speaking on behalf of women who were raped by local British soldiers, Rebecca was assaulted by four men at her home with her husband turning a blind eye to it. As a result, she divorced him, and then together with some other women defied the age-old patriarchal system in their village and founded Umoja. Despite numerous setbacks and death threats on Rebecca’s life by men, including her husband, Umoja is still going strong.
One of the main sources of revenue for the village is tourism, as it has a camping site for tourists looking to visit the nearby Samburu National Reserve. In addition, they also provide a guided tour of the Samburu Cultural Center and sell Samburu craft in the village. Umoja also has a fully operational school and clinic. In 2005, Rebecca was invited by the United Nations to attend a conference on gender empowerment in New York.
She also received the Vital Voices Fern Holland Global Leadership Award in 2010.