A GUEST POST BY MARY DALEY YERRICK Rebecca Lolosoli is an extraordinary community leader. More than a matriarch of a life-transforming group, she is the glue that holds it together. Samburu women are among the most marginalized groups in Kenya. With a low status in society, scarce access to education, they are last to receive the few resources available. Polygamy is commonly practiced and wives are regarded as property acquired through forced marriages and payment of dowries. As a result, women are subjected to continual abuse and many eventually opt to leave their husbands and become sole providers for themselves and their children.
In 1990, 15 women, led by Rebecca, came together and Umoja Village was formed and properly registered to protect and empower women economically through engagement in income generating activities, while educating all members about their human rights. To better achieve these goals and to provide added security for the women, the group established a women-only village. Their number has now grown to 48. The group not only improves the lives of its resident members, but also of the community at large through a network of women groups in the district.
These groups rely on Umoja for advice on capacity building, and are able to attend various workshops Umoja hosts to organize on women’s rights and income generating activities. It currently makes beaded jewelry and other crafts to sell. In addition, they own livestock and operate a group saving system. The profits from these endeavors help sustain the women and contribute to covering essential medical fees. Profits also ensure the upkeep of the camp, the cultural center and the Pre School -that is open to both the members and surrounding community children. Future funding will help build a primary school for girls and construct better-equipped facilities. They also wish to focus more on reproductive health, safe and clean drinking water and food security- by planting food and medicinal plants and finally involving women and girls in the political process. Rebecca has big dreams and an inherent ability to get things done.