Umoja, which means "unity" in the Kiswahili language, is a place for abused women and girls to take shelter from their families or tribes who subject them to harsh and unfair living conditions. From wives who go to Umoja with their children to escape violent husbands to little girls who run away to avoid arranged marriages, Umoja has been a safe haven for women in the Samburu District of Kenya.
Rebecca Lolosoli founded the village in 1990 to escape her own abusive household with a handful of other women who decided that they'd had enough of the oppression lobbied on them by the traditionalist laws of their tribe. Since then, the village has grown and has become self sufficient. The village consists of mud-and-dung huts, farm land, and camp grounds for tourists who can stay at the village due to its desireable proximity to the Samburu National Reserve, a Safari ground.
While offering sanctuary to women escaping abusive scenarios, the village has been threatened on numerous occasions by bitter husbands who've lost their wives and disapproving male tribal leaders. At one point in the villages history, the estranged husbands of the women who'd joined Umoja attempted to detract from the women's tourist revenue by establishing their own, all-male village nearby. It didn't last long. News of Rebecca's invitation to travel to New York to speak at a U.N. Human Rights conference prompted local men to throw stones at her when she walked by. Also, in 2009, her estranged husband barged into the village with a gun, demanding that Rebecca return to his home. The Kenyan police refused to intervene, claiming it was a domestic dispute that was not within their authority to act upon.
Despite a bevy of trials and tribulations, Umoja continues to sustain itself as a safe place for women in what can often be described as an oppressively patriarchal culture. The main source of income for the village is retail sale of custom made jewelry, so please check out the links below for more information.
The official Umoja website: http://www.umojawomen.net/
The Washington Posts Article on Umoja: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/08/AR2005070801775.html
A profile on Rebecca Lolosoli and the threats she faces: http://vitalvoices.org/node/1115
Parlour Magazine's article on Umoja: http://parlourmagazine.com/2012/04/in-kenya-the-umoja-village-is-for-women-only/