After visiting Rebecca several times over the course of a year, OTA interviewed her in September 2013 to share her story of Umoja Women’s Group. She founded Umoja in 1990 to help Samburu women suffering from domestic violence and other abuses find a safe refuge. Over the decades she has met incredible opposition from the Samburu men, but against the odds she has established a haven currently housing 58 women and recently ran for a political position in her community.
My name is Rebecca Lolosoli. I work with Umoja Women’s Group which was started in 1990. We started a women’s village and in 1990 we had three women; now we are 58 women. It’s a village where women run to, like a shelter for the women.
We are fighting for the rights of women, the rights of weak families, and the rights of girls. Samburu women don’t have rights. So we fight for our girls to go to school, to choose their husbands and to own anything like land and livestock as any other human being can. This village is the shelter for women where women and girls run to during their problems, such as early marriages, early pregnancy, and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). We also try to help those girls that get pregnant before FGM because their baby will be killed so we try to protect the girl and protect the baby.
And now also the women work fighting for peace. We need peace in Kenya and we want to have peace with other communities like our neighbours – the ones who are fighting with Samburu: Borana, Turkana, and Pokor. So we think the women are to bring these changes of peace and we want to network with our neighbours (the Borana, Turkana and Pokor). We want to visit each other and try to see how we can bring peace between us because we are the victims. It’s always the women and children who are the victims. That’s why we have to think again about peace because there’s no development without peace and that’s what we are trying to do with Umoja Women’s Group.
You can visit Umoja Women’s Village at Archer’s Post, near the gate of Samburu National Reserve. Rebecca also runs a campsite close to the village where tourists visiting the Reserve can stay. The proceeds from the camp support the women in the village and their ongoing fight for women’s rights in the Samburu community. Visit www.umojawomen.net for more information.