Umoja, the Community of Kenyan Women Founded by Rebecca Samaria Lolosololi

Umoja, the Community of Kenyan Women Founded by Rebecca Samaria Lolosololi

For several decades many women sexually assaulted by the British were disowned by their husbands and expelled from their homes with their children

also being rejected by the community, this caused some of them to remain silent and not reveal the abuse to avoid facing trial social. 

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In some cultures, the submission of women is an integral part of their own daily life, however, some go against the current and manage to emancipate themselves even against the principles of their society, their religion, or the country where they live.

In 2003, a lawsuit against the British Ministry of Defense for the repeated -and massive- rape of women in Kenya came to light.

Sources speak of up to 1,400 women raped over 30 of the 45 years of British military presence in that country.

But the problem goes beyond a lawsuit!

In some African cultures, in this case, Kenya, women are considered second-class citizens. The girls undergo genital mutilation to later be given by their families in marriage, generally from the age of nine.

The rate of sexual harassment and violence is very high, as is oppression and gender violence in all its forms.

The man pays a dowry to buy a wife, and from there that woman -a girl- becomes an object of property without a voice or vote.

Within this context, raped women are repudiated and expelled from their community, so many of them prefer to remain silent.

For several decades many women sexually assaulted by the British were disowned by their husbands and expelled from their homes with their children, also being rejected by the community, this caused some of them to remain silent and not reveal the abuse to avoid facing trial social. However, those who became pregnant after a silent rape were expelled when their children were born, and it was revealed that they were mulattoes (a mix of black and white races).

It is towards the end of the 80s that, faced with so much injustice committed against women, someone decides to raise her voice and advocate for feminine waste.

Being a woman, she found herself criticized, attacked, and repudiated by her people.

Her name? Rebecca Samaria Lolosoli.

This Kenyan woman born in Wamba (Samburu District) in 1962 is the fourth of six children, whose polygamous father had 3 wives.

She was allowed to attend school and become a nurse, marrying at 18.

However, contrary to tradition, her husband allowed her to open an activity selling goods and work.

It was perhaps that slight form of emancipation that she had enjoyed up to that moment, which made her protest in favor of the rights of other women.

She was the target of attacks and discrimination of all kinds, which led her to be admitted to a hospital. While there she became aware that her husband had done nothing to defend her, rather, he decided to disown her as well as her community, for which she filed for divorce and became part of those disowned women.

From that moment she decided that her mission would be to defend the rights of women, thus founding in 1990 the first community of women of which she had memory in Kenya.

Together with 7 women raped by the British and expelled, she founded UMOJA (in the Swahili language it means union).

Rebecca used that discrimination that weighed on them, as a battle weapon to erect a village made of bahareque with mud and straw roofs, where men were not admitted, which further upset the men who until then had not seen any woman radically rebel against the prevailing macho system, applying the law of men: repudiation, in this case masculine.

Faced with the local outrage this caused, Sebastian Lesinik decided to build a village in front of Umoja, entirely male as a challenge to Rebecca's initiative, and to prove that women could not survive without men, declaring: "The man is the head, the A woman is only her neck, and a man cannot take advice from her neck."

Yet despite all the attacks that the women of Umoja have faced, including the arson perpetration by Rebecca's ex-husband in 2009 and continued threats, not only from him but from many others in the community, this has only reinforced the cause that these women defend, reaching up to 50 resident women with their respective children (around 200 children).

They are women who have fled rape, violence, forced marriages, oppression, genital mutilation, and all kinds of human rights violations.

The controversial and unusual decision that Rebecca adopted against machismo and the nullity of values granted to women, caught the attention of local, national, and international organizations, which have offered their support to this community, which mainly lives by making handicrafts. local crops and the visit of many tourists interested in knowing their town -whose lands have been bought by them-.

It is worth clarifying that the only men who can spend the night in the town are those who have grown up there, the others are not admitted, and marriage is not allowed either, therefore if a woman wants to get married, she must leave the town.

In 2005 Rebecca met with the UN in NY, which gave international visibility to her cause.

In 2010 she was awarded the North American NGO Vital Voices (Global Leadership Award) which rewards and exalts the work of women who fight for human rights and empowerment.

She also works with MYWO -Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization-, a Kenyan NGO that fights for women's rights.

Through the groups they represent, Margaret Auma Odhiambo, Rebecca Lolosoli, and other women leaders have presented a bill to the Kenyan government that would prohibit

child and arranged marriages, punish sexual harassment and rape, as well as genital mutilation.

She, "the matriarch" as she is known, put a stop to abuse and hostility towards women, reversing the regional system to restore dignity to thousands of women, fighting for equal rights concerning men.

A woman who defines very well the real concept of feminism and moves away from the social clichés that define other types of progressive manifestations as feminists.

And you, do you believe in the strength of women's communities raising their voices for their rights? Leave us your comments and opinions on our page or TWP networks

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