Inside Kenyan Village Where Men Are Banned

  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a major issue of concern in Kenya considering the number of women and girls who undergo the outlawed practice every year. 

    However, a village founded in 1990 by a group of 15 women who were survivors of sexual harassment by local British soldiers provides a safe haven for women and girls fleeing from the vice. 

    The thorny trees and dung-caked homes of Umoja village make it resemble any other in Kenya’s north-eastern Samburu region, except in one key detail — the absence of men. 

    Umoja Village women

    A file photo of women from Umoja village.


    Since its establishment, the village provides a refuge for women, from the Samburu community and beyond, who are fleeing female genital mutilation (FGM), domestic abuse, or child marriage.

    According to Rebecca Lolosoli, the founder and matriarch of Umoja village, the idea of establishing a women-only community came to her while in hospital recovering from a beating by a group of men. 

    The beating was an attempt to teach her a lesson for daring to speak to women in her village about their rights, contrary to Samburu customs. 

    Umoja is now a thriving, self-sufficient community of almost 40 families with the women making money selling traditional beadwork to tourists, and from a nearby campsite.

    “I am very proud to live in this village because now there is no one stressing me, and my husband will not assault me here,” Lolosoli revealed in an interview with ABC News.

    Umoja village has been a safe haven for hundreds of women including 26-year-old Christine Sitiyan who abandoned her marriage due to domestic violence. 

    “I used to be mistreated but now I feel free,” Sitiyan revealed in an interview with ABC News indicating that she is in no rush to let a man back into her life. 

    According to Sitiyan, after she lost hope in the marriage to her husband, she first tried to return to her home village, but the cattle used as a dowry to secure her marriage had been stolen.

    However, Umoja Village is not free from problems as local men routinely steal their cattle. 

    Christine Sitiyan a member of Umoja Village

    A photo of Christine Sitiyan, a member and beneficiary of the Umoja village.


    Furthermore, Lolosoli has not completely managed to keep men out of the village as some women still maintain relationships with men from outside the village. 

    “It’s funny because you don’t see men around here but you see small children, which means women go get men outside,” Lotukoi, the only man allowed in the village to attend to the herds of cattle owned by women told Guardian in a past interview. 

    Regardless of the challenges, Umoja village remains a unique village in Kenya and a safe haven for many Samburu women and girls who are running away from FGM, abuse and forced marriages. 

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Jay Ndungu

Jay is a computer scientist and journalist with a passion for the intersection of technology and society. He has a background in computer science, developing a deep understanding of the technical aspects of the industry, including programming languages and software development methodologies. Currently, He writes for Nairobi Times, covering a wide range of topics including technology, politics, sports, and entertainment. With his unique combination of technical knowledge and journalistic experience, Jay brings a unique perspective to the stories he covers, able to explain complex technical concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. His work is dedicated to bridge the gap between technology and society, and to make people more aware of the potential of technology to make the world a better place.

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