Many women have died because of violence, they have come here to stop the death of their children and continue living.
A Haven for Survivors of Gender Violence
Umoja Women's Village
The Plight of Mpanisa
At the tender age of 15, Mpanisa faced the harsh reality of being married off as a third wife to an older man. Despite her young age, she was not officially recognised as a resident of Umoja Women's Village, which is home to 36 survivors of gender violence. Mpanisa's journey to the village began when she ran away from her abusive husband, a decision fueled by the harsh drought conditions that worsened her nightmare. Her father had traded her for two cows, but her husband failed to fulfil his promise of providing five cows to her family.
The Importance of Livestock
Although Mpanisa endured traumatic experiences, the significance of livestock remains deeply ingrained in her upbringing. She emphasises that her husband should have given her family five cows, expressing her awareness of the cultural expectations and traditions surrounding marriage and dowry. Despite the trauma she has faced, Mpanisa's connection to her familial roots and the value placed on livestock highlights the complexities of her situation.
A Desperate Search for Safety
Mpanisa's journey to Umoja Women's Village began when the local police chief brought her to the village two months ago. Arriving with little more than the clothes on her back, she was in a vulnerable and desperate state. Returning home was not an option for Mpanisa, as it would have meant being returned to her abusive husband or being forced into another marriage. Umoja Women's Village provided her with the refuge and safety she desperately needed.
Umoja Women's Village: A Lifeline for Survivors
Founded by Rebecca Lolosoli, Umoja Women's Village and the Samburu Women's Trust serves as a lifeline for women who have experienced violence and oppression. The village was established to protect women and their children from harm and to offer them a chance at rebuilding their lives. Rebecca acknowledges the tragic deaths of many women due to violence and emphasises the importance of creating a safe space where they can continue living.
Solutions and Support
The women of Umoja Women's Village understand the need for solutions to the challenges they face. The village is supported by Oxfam Ireland, which provides direct cash payments of approximately €70 per month to each household. However, rampant food inflation often depletes these funds. Additionally, the Samburu tradition of mutual support and sharing further reduces the resources available to each individual.
In Umoja Women's Village, acts of compassion and generosity help to uplift survivors like Mpanisa. 86-year-old Rantilei opened her home to Mpanisa, allowing her to assist around the house. Rantilei even shares her monthly allowance with another 15-year-old girl who also escaped forced marriage and female genital mutilation. The community's solidarity and support enable these young girls to find strength and hope in their shared experiences.