Integrated From Disintegration
In this World, it is seen that real events are, at times, stranger than imaginary ones. This stands true for Samburu, a remote village in Kenya, which is inhabited by the tribes Samburu, Turkana and some others. There are Central Bantu speaking tribes, Plains Nilotic speaking tribes and East Cushitic speaking tribes in Kenya. They include Maasai, Samburu, Teso, Turkana, Elmolo, Njemps (Highland Nilotic), Kalenjin, Marakwet, Tugen, Pokot, Elkony, and Kipsigis (Lake River Nilotic). Like many other women in different parts of the world, the Women of Samburu were considered to be among the most downtrodden in their Society. They were not even given the treatment of Second Class Citizens. In Past, the Men of a predominantly Patriarchal Samburu Society used Women as per their desire! The Women of Samburu had to experience different forms of tortures, ranging from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or circumcision, Forced Marriages imposed on minor girls, to even getting Gangraped and murdered by their husbands or other Men… in short, they used to be considered as the property of the Men…
At one juncture, Women of Samburu decided to raise their voices against the Social Norms, and went on to set up their own village: Umoja. Umoja Uaso is an All-Female Matriarch Village located near the town of Archers Post in Samburu County, 380km from the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. Men are banned to stay in this village! In 1990, Rebecca Lolosoli, a woman who was tortured and abandoned by her husband, founded the village. She had come up with the idea of setting up a village for women and discussed the issue with 15 other women. Later, they came together to found the village.
Rebecca recalled that soldiers, stationed in Samburu, used to torture the womenfolk there, often taking them away, and raping them! It was once seen that the soldiers had raped more than 1,500 Samburu Women! The unfortunate thing is that they did not find their husbands by their sides… on the contrary, their husbands turned them away! Rebecca was one such woman! Later, she, along with 15 women sharing a similar fate, built a shelter for them all. Now, all the victims of Samburu take refuge in Umoja village. Many pregnant women, too, live there. If they give birth to baby boys, their children are allowed to stay in the village until the age of 18. Then, they have to leave the place…
It was not easy for Rebecca and other women to build the village. The Men in Samburu were not ready to accept this turnaround… Women asserting their Rights! The women, there, were even threatened by them! However, they fought against the Patriarchal System, hand in hand, and now, the women, while living in Umoja, visit all the places outside the village, and enjoy their lives. Umoja has turned out to be one of the places that attract tourists. The development of Tourism Industry has also brought the opportunity for these women to earn money. Thus, the Samburu Women have become self-dependent in many aspects. The Samburu Men, on the other hand, could not accept this, and had an attempt in setting up of an All-Male Patriarch Village in order to attract tourists. However, it was a dismal failure.
The Growing Popularity of Umoja led to more violent actions, as the Samburu Men attacked the village and destroyed the huts. They also tried to acquire the lands. However, the Culture Ministry of Kenya and the UN protected the Samburu Women and their village. The women became the legal owners of Umoja land. Apart from receiving financial support from the Government, the Samburu Women have started earning money from various ways, such as cottage industries and farming. They are also involved in various social activities, raising orphans is one among them.
The Government of Kenya, till recently, did not allow the Samburu Men to enter the village… they now can do so, but only as tourists… they are not allowed to spend nights there. As per the census of 2015, there are 47 women and nearly 200 children in Umoja. There is also a school in Umoja for the children.
During his trip to Umoja in 2015, then US President Barack Hussein Obama was heard saying: “Around the world, there is a tradition of oppressing women and treating them differently and not giving them the same opportunities, and husbands beating their wives, and children not being sent to school. Those are traditions. Treating women and girls as second-class citizens. Those are bad traditions. They need to change.”
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