Rebecca Lolosoli is featured in the second night of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.
Rebecca Lolosoli is the matriarch of the Umoja Women's Village in Kenya and an advocate for women's rights.
Growing up as a member of the Samburu tribe, Lolosoli attended primary school and then nursing school but dropped out early due to a lack of money to pay for school fees. She married at the age of 18 and then started her own business selling goods. As she learned of women who had been raped by British soldiers training nearby, she began to speak up to help them. In retaliation, neighborhood men beat her, and when her husband did not protest the beatings, she left him.
Lolosoli, along with several other women who were also survivors of violence, established the Umoja Women's Village, which means unity in Swahili. To sustain themselves, they sell beadwork and open up their village as a tourist attraction. With the money they have earned, they built a school for their children and those in surrounding villages and eventually purchased the land they live on.
Because the area is prone to drought, Lolosoli and her village have worked to decrease their reliance on cattle, which often die or are stolen during such weather conditions. They now have a chicken coop, which provides both income and protein to the women and children in the village.
Lolosoli has been repeatedly elected as chairperson of the village and is also chair of her local chapter of Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO), a nonprofit, voluntary group working to improve the lives of women and youth in Kenya. Lolosoli received the Global Leadership Award from Vital Voices in 2010. She continues to fight for a woman's right to make decisions, own land and run a business, and she works tirelessly to end harmful and unsafe cultural practices and violence against women.
She plans to run for local office and will be the first Samburu woman ever to do so.
Want to help?
Purchase the traditional, beaded jewelry handmade by the women of Umoja, Kenya, a woman-only village founded by Rebecca Lolosoli. The village was established for survivors of violence as a refuge — a place for women to sustain themselves through their traditional beadwork. The funds they raise through their jewelry help support community projects. With money they earned in the past, they bought the land they now live on and built a school for their children and those in surrounding villages. They are currently raising funds for scholarships for the young girls of Umoja, teachers' salaries, a fresh water project, and more.