Umoja: An Old Village With No Men

Men are denied from entry to make a place of refuge for girls and women who are survivors of sexual violence and abuse

Upon entering a manless community, one thing that strikes a chord is; ‘how can women adapt without men’, particularly checking out at the huge responsibilities of men in a community. In any case, the women of Samburu who vary in age and mostly survivors of gender-based violence are managing.

Umoja, is a town in Samburu District, in northern Kenya. It seems to be other ancestral settlements or manyattas – with encompassing meadows and hovels, where community living is the standard – except for one thing. There are no men.

Umoja is the Kiswahili word for solidarity, and it’s clear that this idea is at the center of this local area. Established in 1990 as a safe-haven for women of Samburu getting away from gender based violence, Umoja is home to females, of all ages.

Men are denied from entry to make a place of refuge for girls and women who are survivors of sexual violence and abuse, ostracized by their families, as well as those getting away from child marriage or female genital mutilation (FGM).

Interestingly, a Ghanaian photographic artist by name Paul Ninson is one of numerous explorers who originally found this local area loaded with women in 2017. With no earlier contact with the women, he went on the outing visually impaired, knowing just the overall location of the town.

The first few members of Umoja were from far off Samburu towns dispersed across the Break Valley. This self-supported village has been home to around 50 families comprised of women and their children, and keeps on educating its inhabitants on women’s rights and gender based violence. Any male offspring of the women are allowed to live in the village until they turn 18.

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According to Paul Ninson, gaining access was very difficult, and he was only welcomed by the women after explaining the purpose behind his visit, adding that they were “very, very happy” when he showed them the pictures he took.

The lifestyle of the individuals who live there is humble, with the women working hard to earn income for food and educational resources for the village’s children and some of the women themselves.

Situated about a kilometer away from Umoja is a campground where numerous sightseers stay while visiting the locale to explore the renowned Maasai Mara wildlife reserve. Sightseers or tourists who wish to visit Umoja are charged a little extra fee, and can buy beaded jewellery and other crafts handmade by the Samburu women.

This “village with no men” is one of several strange villages around the world.

Credit: Paul Ninson. He is a renowned photographer, who studied International Center of Photography in New York in 2019. With the support of Stanton and the Humans of New York platform, Ninson raised over $1 million to fund the first stage of the Dikan Center in Ghana’s capital of Accra – Africa’s largest photography library and visual education space, which opened in December 2022.

Ninson opened the Dikan Center in Accra in December 2022.

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