Kenyan Women CRAFT their way to Safety and Security
The basket in the hands of artist Rebecca Lolosoli of the Umoja Uaso in Kenya now graces my desktop. Its intricate beaded pattern and bright colors stand in stark opposition to the grim yet hopeful past of the Samburu women–among the most marginalized in Kenya.
Development has been slow to reach the area and education is not easily accessible. Furthermore, women have a low status in the community and are the last to receive the few resources available. Many women are subject to severe mistreatment by their husbands. Faced with continual abuse, these women opt to leave their husbands.
Another example of the discrimination and ill-treatment that Samburu women have faced is the alleged rape of approximately 1400 women during the 1980s and the 1990s by British soldiers from training bases in the area. Many of these women were subsequently shunned by their husbands. The women were left as sole providers for themselves and their children.
In 1990, 15 women formed and registered the Umoja Uaso Women’s Group with the then Ministry of Culture. They started by selling beadwork and other goods. After facing threats from men jealous of their success, the members decided to found a women-only village and reside together, thus providing collective security and cooperation. The group also dedicated itself to informing women about their rights, their health, and helps them start income-generating activities.
These women have provided a role model for subsequent groups to come together for protection and enterprise. Yes—women supporting other women. It might be a model we need now more than ever in these divided times.