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July-14-05

All-Female African Village Still Thriving After 10 Years

The all-female village of Umoja, Kenya is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year as a prosperous community after ten years of struggle and opposition. Umoja, meaning “unity” in Swahili, was founded ten years ago by a group of homeless women who had been left by their husbands because they were raped. The husbands claimed that their wives had shamed them and their villages. Umoja has served and continues to serve as a safe haven for young women escaping violence, female genital mutilation, and forced marriage., according to the Washington Post.

Approximately 36 women live in the village, running their own cultural center and a tourist campsite for the nearby Samburu National Reserve. At the cultural center, the women sell crafts and the traditional Samburu beaded necklaces. This has been such a successful project that the women have enough money to send their children to school for the first time. In their previous village lives, many husbands would insist that the children help with the livestock, but these women have the money and decision-making power to choose education for their children. Some men attempted to start an all-male village close by, but the endeavor was unsuccessful.

Rebecca Lolosoli, the matriarch and chief of Umoja, was recently invited to speak before the United Nations in New York at a world conference on gender empowerment. When commenting on the achievements of the village, Lolosoli said, “We’ve seen so many changes in these women. They’re healthier and happier. They dress well. They used to have to beg. Now, they’re the ones giving out food to others,” reports The New York Times.

Media Resources: New York Times 12/7/05; Washington Post 7/11/05

   

     

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