Umoja, a Kenyan Village for Abused Women

Collection with 11 media items created by Javier Triana

04 Jun 2014 22:00

Judy Latukoi talks about her curse with astonishing ease. “My father wanted to marry me with an old man, and I didn't. So I escaped”, she says, her sight focused on her smartphone's display. Judy was then 9 years old. Her story is not new, exclusive or even slightly original. Thousands of girls go through it in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their fathers try to marry them for a dowry. Maybe some cows, a symbol of whealth among the Samburu, in Northern Kenya, where Judy comes from.
“I was told about a place near Archers Post where they could help me. A village for women”, she adds. Thirty-five women live there currently. Umoja (Unity in Kiswahili) was founded in 1990 by fifteen women allegedly raped by British soldiers and it was born merely as a group. After trying to get funding through several activities to no avail, they found the recipe for success: to create a village in which they could live safely and promote it to touristm
“We saved for months”, says the leader, Rebecca Lolosoli. “After we applied for the land [on which Umoja stands today], men came and beat us saying women should not own land”. But their project went ahead. Now the women proudly say that unwanted men are afraid of entering their village, as they've been severly fined by the Police. Umoja is an oasis for those who flee abuse, forced marriage or female genital mutilation. But it's not only about that – its residents try to educate the surrounding communities on women rights and health too. “Mothers teach their children not to beat their wives and to be responsible for the children they have”, Judy explains.
UN Women figures show that 21 per cent of Kenyan women have been sexually abused during their lifetimes, but not even 6 per cent of those report to the police. The situation is no different in the rest of the continent.
Generating income for Umoja's residents poses another challenge. Especially since Umoja (part of the 'Half the Sky' Movement) is a drought-prone area. That's why Rebecca designed a new way of subsistence – instead of depending on the traditional cows and goats, they decided to grow chicken whose eggs they sell in a nearby market.
Several donors and NGOs also provide funds for the development of the village, composed by ten huts in a dusty fenced compound. Umoja survives basically on selling beadded jewelry to the very few tourists that hit this spot of Kenya. They recently acquired a water tank with funds from the sales of their products in the United States.
The entrance fee they charge to visitors is used to fund a pre-school for their children. But if there are no men in Umoja, how do the women breed? Judy replies: “If they want to have children, young women like me go outside the village, look for a boyfriend, get pregnant, leave him, and come back with the baby”.

Women Rights Kenya Fenale Genit... Women Abuse Early Marriage Sub Saharan ...

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Umoja 01
By Javier Triana
22 Oct 2013

Some residents of the women-only village of Umoja (Kenya) have a chat in the shade.

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Umoja 02
By Javier Triana
22 Oct 2013

Judy Lotukoi, one of the residents of the women-only village of Umoja (Kenya). She fled her home at the age of 9 when she knew her father wanted to force her to marry "an old man". She has lived in Umoja for the past 10 years.

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Umoja 3
By Javier Triana
22 Oct 2013

One of the residents of the women-only village of Umoja (Kenya) coming back home. Meanwhile, another inhabitant (right) works on a necklace in the shade.

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Umoja 04
By Javier Triana
22 Oct 2013

Daily life in the women-only village of Umoja (Kenya).

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Umoja 05
By Javier Triana
22 Oct 2013

Nagusi Odó, one of the founders of the women-only village of Umoja (Kenya). The place was established in the 90's and it's an oasis for abused women.

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Umoja 06
By Javier Triana
22 Oct 2013

Some residents of the women-only village of Umoja (Kenya) have a chat in the shade. Nagusi Odó (right) is one of the founders of the village.

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Umoja 07
By Javier Triana
22 Oct 2013

Some residents of the women-only village of Umoja (Kenya) have a chat at the shade of an acacia tree.

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Umoja 08
By Javier Triana
22 Oct 2013

Maria Lisa is the oldest resident of the women-only village of Umoja (Kenya). She doesn't know how old she is.

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Umoja 09
By Javier Triana
22 Oct 2013

Daily life at the women-only village of Umoja (Kenya). It was established in the 90's as a safe haven for abused girls and women.

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Umoja 11
By Javier Triana
06 Jun 2014

Some residents of the women-only village of Umoja (Kenya) gather to greet visitors to their hamlet. Umoja was created at the beginning of the 90's and it's an oasis for abused women.

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Umoja 12
By Javier Triana
22 Oct 2013

Jacky Ntepes (left) and Judy Lotukoi, two of the youngest residents of the women-only village of Umoja (Kenya).