Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Living in Umoja ("unity")

Though the village of Umoja Uaso, in Northern Kenya, has existed since 1990, I just became aware of it. And "it" is a matriarchy -- a women-run, women-only village, set up for women by women, and run by
Rebecca Lolosoli. It came to exist because women sought refuge from rape, from the abuse doled out on them by their husbands after the men raped them, and from violence. It has since been quite successful, with the women earning money by making crafts and selling them to tourists, raising their own food, and taking in more and more women. (The Washington Post wrote about the village in 2005.)

It is a safe haven. It has been declared a "violence-against-women-free zone.

But recently, Lolosoli was threatened by male family members (her former husband? reports aren't so clear), who had guns. Apparently she has sought police protection after returning from a trip to Santa Fe for an arts festival; it's unclear to me if she received the protection or if so, if she's returned to her village. Read more here and here.

I can't even pretend to know what these women have gone through that led them quest to live in this village, where men are forbidden, or what they have gone through since and are going through now. But I can sympathize with the notion of being so desperate for change and for being allowed to live your life that the only way to get it is to create such a village. I don't think their example would work the world over; but if it works for them, that's all that matters. I hope they are able to continue doing what they're doing in the way they wish to do so.

If only every place were a "violence-against-women-free zone."

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