Im Umoja Women’s Village in Kenia

Ein Erfahrungsbericht unserer Reiseleiterin Sinja Stötzner. Sinja war lange Zeit als alleinreisende Touristin in Kenia unterwegs, um das faszinierende Land kennen zu lernen und  hat länger im Frauendorf Umoja Women’s Village mitgearbeitet. Die Geschichte des Dorfes und der darin lebenden Frauen, die sich gegen Beschneidung, Zwangsverheiratung und gegen Gewalt an Frauen einsetzen, hat ihr Leben nachhaltig verändert. Sie lebt inzwischen fest in Nairobi, hat dort ihre eigene  Reiseagentur Travel with Sinja gegründet und versucht bei ihren Reisen, die Frauen Nairobis in den Fokus zu setzen. Wir haben in ihr eine Verbündete in der Frauentouristik gefunden und eine sprühende, ideenreiche und empathische junge Frau, die mit Leidenschaft Reisende begleitet auf dem Weg das außergewöhnliche Kenia der Frauen zu entdecken.

Let us have one voice as women and support each other!

„We are all women, whether you are black, whether you are white. We are all women and it’s only our voice as women which will make us strong in the world. So let us have one voice as women and let us be strong as women and let us support each other!”
Rebecca Lolosoli, June 2019

Rebecca Lolosoli, one of the most inspiring ladies I have ever met, risked her life to motivate women like herself to raise their voices against their men and to fight together against FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and early forced marriages. She was one of the co-founders of the women’s village Umoja – a village for only women in Samburu County, Kenya.

Since I have met Rebecca the first time in 2015, her story has changed my life. Whenever I feel challenged or think that there is no way out, I remember her words. She reminds me that I can make a difference if I truly desire it and that it only needs the initiative of one single lady to stand up for the better and make a change.

Until today I can’t believe how strong this beautiful soul is and how she managed to run away from her husband and her family to create a safe haven for herself and other women and their children.
The last time I visited her village in June 2019, she shared her story with me and explained what made her risk her life and start a women’s village. In her young age she collapsed during her process of FGM due to heavy bleeding. In the Samburu tribe it is tradition for Samburu teenager to undergo FGM in the age between 11 and 18 before they get married. 2013 the Kenyan government constituted the Prohibition of FGM. But due to religious and traditional identities FGM is still common in the Samburu tribe. The fact that FGM is illegal now, the ceremony is done hidden in a bush or village, which even increases the risk of bleedings, later infections, complications in childbirth and as well new-born death. Rebecca’s family thought she got unconscious because she was witched and left her bleeding. A stranger who passed by found her and saved her life by taking her to the next hospital. After her release she had to continue with the FGM and this time her bleeding was so heavy that she got admitted to hospital for a full month. By this time Rebecca was still young and couldn’t do anything to change the situation. But one thing she already knew: her kids will not go through the same experience!

During her marriage, she used to work in the husband’s family business and shared the small money which she earned herself with other ladies from the village, who didn’t have enough money for food or hospitals bills, against the will of the husband’s family. One day they attacked her so badly that she almost lost one of her eyes. How many times did she wish to just leave her old life behind and live on her own? Her family, who was not supporting her, and the responsibility for her small children, were making her go back to her husband.

When you get married as a Samburu woman to a Samburu man you automatically become part of his family without the chance to return to your original family. Although she went back to her husband, she knew she could not continue living with him. When she was sharing her story with other Samburu women, they realized that they are facing similar experiences and that together they would be much stronger than with their husbands. The decision was made. 15 women ran away from their husbands. The only thing Rebecca was carrying was the clothes she wore (her dress and her sandals) and her children. The women survived by eating fruits and selling their hand made jewelleries to tourists who were passing by the highway. But the women lived in permanent fear and under regular attacks of Samburu men who wanted their wives or children back.
One night an ex-husband of one of the women came to the village with a knife to kill Rebecca. He accused her that his wife has left him because of her influence. She could escape in the last second due to the protection of the other women in the village.

Today Umoja Women’s Village is a safe zone and refuge center for all women. After an existence of almost 30 years now, the security in the women’s village is provided through their own male grown up children, who live close to the village with their own families. All women are welcome to Umoja. Umoja women stand up together and fight together for their rights. A single woman does not get heard in Samburu, but when a whole village demonstrates they can make a difference.

The vision of the women is to create awareness against FGM and early forced marriages. In their training center they teach other women about women’s rights and the importance of girl child education.

Let us visit this wonderful village together and „let us have one face and let us be strong as women, because we are the flowers of the world, we are the light of the world!”
Rebecca Lolosoli, June 2019

Raise awareness and share the story of Rebecca and the Umoja Women’s Village with your friends to support them in their goal of proscribing FGM and save many Samburu girls from this destiny. Support Umoja through a donation or travel to Kenya to visit their village, buy their hand made jewelleries and stay at their resort.
I personally made it to my vision to spread the word of Umoja and guide visitors to their village so that this wonderful initiative will grow and get a worldwide attention.

By Sinja Stoetzner
Travel With Sinja

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