A group of women in the dry heartland of central Kenya have almost entirely excluded men from their lives to protect themselves from domestic violence and rape. The small community of Unity Village is one of several women-only settlements surrounding Archer’s Post in the country’s central region.
“There is no-one who can rape us here,” Nkamasioi Lembwakita said, explaining why there were no men in the village.
The women live in traditional homes made from green branches, reeds and whatever they can find to make the roof watertight.
Ms. Lembwakita said she had abandoned all thoughts of living with or around men. “I do not want a husband anymore, because previously I suffered under my husband,” she said.
It is still a widely held belief by both men and women in Kenya that a husband should discipline his wife with his fists. Most of the women in the village have been subjected to violence by men. Others have been raped.
Alice Lenamungi explained what happened when she lived with her husband. “I used to look after the goats while my children were at school,” she said. “When I came home in the evening my husband would beat [me] if I lost a goat in the fields. He would refuse me food and I’d sleep on an empty stomach.”
About a year ago, Ms Lenamungi and her four children moved to Unity Village to escape the beatings. “It’s good because there is no-one troubling [me] and my kids are at school, I am in peace,” she said. She has cut all ties with her former husband. “I do not want to hear from him. He has another wife now. I don’t want to disturb them,” she said.
In the village, the women make handicrafts and beaded jewelry to generate a little income, but business has been slow. A series of tribal disputes between the Samburu, the Pokot, and the Turkana tribes has spilled over into violence with people shot dead in clashes over grazing lands and during cattle thefts.
The fact some women have abandoned men 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.