By Biodun Ayeni
Umoja, is a village in the grasslands of Samburu, in northern Kenya, surrounded by a fence of thorns.
Its is the only single-sex community in the whole of Africa.
Umoja in Kenya started out as a refuge for victims of sexual abuse. Fifteen years later the women-only village is thriving.
Umoja (“unity” in Swahili), a village in Kenya , founded in 1990, is an all-female matriarch village located in near the town of Archers Post in Samburu County, 380 km (240 mi) from the capital, Nairobi.
It was founded by Rebecca Lolosoli, a Samburu woman, as a sanctuary for homeless survivors of violence against women, and young girls running from forced marriages.
The village was founded in 1990 by a group of 15 women who were survivors of rape by local British soldiers.
Umoja’s population has now expanded to include any women escaping child marriage, FGM (female genital mutilation), domestic violence and rape – all of which are cultural norms among the Samburu.
The women of the Samburu people do not agree with violence and the traditional subordinate position of women.
They run a primary school, cultural center and camping site for tourists visiting the adjacent Samburu National Reserve. They create and sell jewellery to benefit the village.
The women wear traditional Samburu dress of patterned skirts, brightly coloured shirts and a kanga (a colourful wrap) tied on their shoulders.
Necklaces made of strings of vividly coloured beads form stunning circular patterns around their necks.
The colourful clothing contrasts with the dry air and terrain, and the harsh sun that picks out the dust that fills the air.
They also have a Website.
There are currently 47 women and 200 children in Umoja.
Although the inhabitants live extremely frugally, these enterprising women and girls earn a regular income that provides food, clothing and shelter for all.
Village leaders run a campsite, a kilometre away by the river, where groups of safari tourists stay. Many of these tourists, and others passing through nearby nature reserves, also visit Umoja.
The women charge a modest entrance fee and hope that, once in the village, the visitors will buy jewellery made by the women in the craft centre.
See pictures that tell stories of how these group of women live.