Under the equatorial scalding sun there is a buzz of conversation, productivity and gossip among the women of Umoja, Kenya.
This small, extraordinary village is a simple yet beautiful arrangement of mud huts and acacia trees, with only one rule: no men allowed.
The women gather in what little shade the sparse foliage can provide and get to work on their livelihood: bead making.
The Umoja (meaning unity) Women’s Village has residents from all over Kenya who have remarkable stories to tell. They have come here because family members or husbands have forced them to run away.
Nagusi, who had to leave her family after she was allegedly raped by a British Soldier, was one of the founders of the village.
“We started building this village in 1990 because we had so many problems with our families that we had to run away.
“We asked ourselves ‘how can we build a home and provide for our children?’ So we decided to build this village for us, no men allowed.”
“Then we started making the beads and selling them to passing tourists. Thanks to them we had enough money and energy to build a preshool for our children.”
After escaping forced marriage to a HIV positive old man, Judy (pictured above) arrived in Archer’s Post, to find the women of Umoja.
“My father wanted me to marry an old man, so I said no, because that man had HIV Aids and he was 60 years old. So I said no and I ran away.
“When I came to Archer’s Post I heard of this village called Umoja. The women took me in and treated me as their child, so I started making the beads, and now I’m ok. I am happy now.”
Since joining the women of Umoja Judy has been to school, learnt English, and even had a daughter.
Learn more about their stories and see the Women of Umoja web video here.