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The Land Of No Men

Where the foothills of Mount Kenya merge into the desert, there is a village that is literally a no man’s land – a matriarchal refuge where men are not allowed. The village whose history dates back from approximately 27 years ago is meant to be a safe haven for women and girls who want to escape abuse in the otherwise patriarchal society of the Samburu people from northern Kenya

For decades, British soldiers had visited Kenya to conduct military exercises. These visits would frequently culminate in sexual assault of Samburu women who were powerless to stop the soldiers or receive justice in the aftermath of rape. The women were subsequently shamed by their community and deemed unworthy of marriage or family.

These women founded a village that was exclusively for women. The village relies on the contributions of its visitors to feed its inhabitants, and sustain its growth. In the typical Samburu village, money made by a woman is given to her husband, who controls the family’s purse strings.

In the village the women also make handicrafts and beaded jewelry that they sell to their visitors to generate a little income. They keep the money they earn from their business ventures, and learn how to financially support themselves and their families

They take charge of all the activities that brings together a home, from building up the houses to providing for their children and head their families.

The women live in traditional homes made from green branches, reeds and whatever they can find to make the roof watertight.

Over time, the village has started accommodating new entrants who range from victims of domestic violence, early marriages and FGM which are common is the Samburu community

Curious about the young children in the village, one of the women told me “They come from heaven” but later explained that as much as the women live in the village, the regulations do not restrict them from seeing men as long as they don’t live with them in the village.

“It’s good because there is no-one troubling [me] and my kids are at school, I am in peace,”

The fact that some women have abandoned their husbands may be seen as a sign of enlightenment. They realize that life does not have to be violent. Attitudes appear to be changing, but it is a slow transformation.

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