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The Land of No Men: Inside Kenya's Women-Only Village

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26:33   |   Sep 09, 2015

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The Land of No Men: Inside Kenya's Women-Only Village
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  • - I'm trying to do like, a 2-foot skank, and it is not dropping- woah!
  • I've never felt so white in my life.
  • Amongst the Samburu tribes of northern Kenya,
  • where the desert merges with the foothills of Mount Kenya,
  • women have been living under a harsh patriarchal system
  • for as long as they can remember.
  • Female genital mutilation has been one of the most important rituals
  • amongst the Samburu for generations.
  • Once circumcised,
  • a girl can be given away in an arranged marriage to start her own family.
  • This practice has seen girls as young as 12
  • get married to men old enough to be their grandfathers.
  • But this year,
  • Obama's visit to Kenya put women's rights at the forefront of national dialogue.
  • - "Around the world, there is a tradition of repressing women.
  • Treating women and girls as second-class citizens.
  • Those are bad traditions. They need to change.
  • There's no reason that young girls should suffer genital mutilation.
  • There's no place in civilised society
  • for the early or forced marriage of children.
  • These traditions may date back centuries,
  • they have no place in the 21st century."
  • - While the world has just taken note,
  • 25 years ago,
  • a group of fed-up women lived in exodus
  • and took matters into their own hands to free themselves,
  • and started a movement in the Samburu region,
  • creating the first village where no men were allowed.
  • The establishment of Umoja
  • was an inspiration to many women in neighbouring villages,
  • who have risen up to take control of their local governments.
  • - So we travelled to Kenya to road trip through the Samburu District,
  • and see what life is like in a matriarchal society.
  • We are on our way to the Umoja village which is an all female village which started in 1990 by a woman called Rebecca.
  • Rebecca Lolosoli is the matriarch of the Umoja women's village and an advocate for women's rights.
  • Growing up as a member of the Samburu tribe she married at the age of 18
  • and began speaking up about helping women who were victims of rape by British soldiers training near her home.
  • Local men angered by her vocalism beat her until she was hospitalize.
  • When her husband did not protest the beating's, she left him and along with several other women who were survivor's of violence
  • establish the women's village of Umoja.
  • What was once solely a safe haven for women had become a globally known example of a successful matriarchy.
  • The Internet has put Umoja firmly on the map and now people
  • travel far and wide to come and see how the land of no men thrives in the region of Samburu.
  • I think that was our welcome and welcome! Just get a cup of tea up my ass and that's it. (I think that's what she said)
  • So, so far it's super nice. Everything seems really identic.
  • Did you see the welcome, though?
  • Oh my gosh!
  • Every single one can sing as well. Every single of them ladies can sing.
  • So were about to have a sit down and chat with Rebecca and, hopefully, she's gonna explain
  • to me how Umoja came to be and the pros and cons of living in an all female society.
  • and, uh
  • to shed some light on what is like here in Umoja village!
  • Hi Rebecca!
  • It smells so good and do the women do all the renovations and build the houses?
  • *That's messed up*
  • *Good*
  • Do you think the men felt threatened
  • by the women being able to make their own money?
  • With the ability to generate income,
  • the women of Umoja have found independence.
  • Which one did you make?
  • Really!?
  • It's nice!
  • This is amazing!
  • I read- that um,- I read that you met Hilary Clinton.
  • Oh is she?!
  • There you go.
  • I've never had such a spring in my step
  • about going to school, Rebecca.
  • *Laughter*
  • Hi!!!!
  • Women in Umoja are still having children
  • and sons are welcome as long as they are willing to follow
  • the rules and not try to dominate the women.
  • Although no grown men are allowed to live in Umoja
  • the women are still open to relationships
  • and often ronde vou with boyfriends outside the village.
  • You say in the beginning that you had to deal with a lot of
  • sort of problems from the men in the surrounding villages
  • kind of being-
  • genious little bitches basically
  • about your success.
  • Angry husbands occasionally come to Umoja
  • searching for their wives.
  • The women of the village stay up all night and shift to protect
  • each other.
  • The veteran women live side by side with
  • the younger refuges who recently fled to Umoja
  • to escape the cultural ritual's still prevalent
  • in their communities.
  • And how did you feel about what Rebecca teaches
  • at Umoja?
  • Would you want to find a husband one day
  • and have kids?
  • Me either!
  • Most would think Umoja's demographic would mainly be older women
  • it is also home to many young women who have sworn off men completely.
  • So it doesn't seem like there's a awful lot to do
  • to pass the time
  • in Umoja village.
  • But,
  • the huts the ladies make need constant maintenance.
  • So I'm about to go and literally get my hands dirty in cow shit.
  • You just seen some chicks doing DIY.
  • *That's seems like fun!*
  • *So much fun*
  • It's like clay, basically.
  • But warm.
  • Imagine what hot cow shit feels like. *Great, now you have that stuck in my head*
  • We come, we seen, we pulled beads and were out!
  • Bye, ladies!
  • *Chanting*
  • What a wicked way to say "get out of my house love, we've had enough."
  • I'm filled with joy and love and a little bit of cow dung.
  • Umoja has now become an excepted part of the Samburu landscape
  • but not everyone is happy about it.
  • By providing a safe haven for local women
  • it has also become a threat to local men.
  • So, on my second day in the district
  • I went to meet a man nearby who's wife
  • had rejected him to live in the village.
  • So you think that if Umoja didn't exist, your wife
  • would still be with you?
  • Ah well, that's good to hear for you.
  • All is not lost, you can get another wife.
  • Are- are you angry that your wife left you?
  • Well I guess haters is gonna hate no matter what.
  • Yesterday, we went to go and visit Umoja, an all female village where no men are allowed
  • since Umoja, similar villages have appeared.
  • Man are allowed in these villages but women still have the over right and say
  • what I'm hoping is that it's also a safe haven for the submissive men of Kenya.
  • Just to be clear we've got Rebecca's blessing because, um, these
  • villages are kind of the trickle down from Umoja.
  • And so we can't do any of these things without her saying so.
  • As the leader of Umoja, Rebecca dictates who's allowed in and out of the whiter community.
  • I think this is the ceremony, I just drank some goat milk, it's delicious, recommended I and, uh,
  • were gonna go and see what's going on!

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Where the foothills of Mount Kenya merge into the desert, the people of Samburu have maintained a strict patriarchy for over 500 years in northern Kenya. That is, until 25 years ago, when Rebecca Lolosoli founded Umoja village as a safe haven for the region's women. Umoja, which means "unity" in Swahili, is quite literally a no man's land, and the matriarchal refuge is now home to the Samburu women who no longer want to suffer abuses, like genital mutilation and forced marriages, at the hands of men.

Throughout the years, it has also empowered other women in the districts surrounding Samburu to start their own men-excluding villages. Broadly visited Umoja and the villages it inspired to meet with the women who were fed up with living in a violent patriarchy.

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