Umoja Village, Samburu County, Kenya – Rosalina Learpoora is always surrounded by women.
At the age of 18, she lives in the village of all women in northern Kenya, where she spends the evening doing homework, firewood or buying colorful jewelry.
Learpoor has been called Umoja's house since his 3 year old. There, a group of 48 women with children with a brush is living there with their children there to intercept the intruders. When a person breaches, they inform the local police who either issues an alert or arrests the culprit, depending on the number of offenses.
Since then, it has become a haven for women to avoid abusive marriages, female genital mutilation, rape and other forms of attack. Even some women whose husband died have found peace and at home.
She went to the village at the age of 3
Learpoor never met his father – she was told that he died when she was 3 to 15 years old.
Umoja's women are all Samburu's culture, a very patriarchal society that deals with female genital mutilation and believes in polygamy.
Umoja women cover the generation, the oldest resident of the village 98 years old and the youngest six months old. There are women of all ages some with newborns are trailers.
When the boys who live there with their mothers reach the age of 18, they have to move out of the village, Learpoor says.
In the village, the traditional Samburu houses, known for their diverse points, form the landscape. The shell and the sounds of giggling children fill the air.
Like other village women, Learpoor lives with her mother in a small variety of wood, branches and cows. Inside, the only light is from the brilliant brilliance of the fire, secured by three large stones.
In the evening, tiny, modular constructions are full of life, and shameful women sit around the fire to talk about their day as beans and corn cooking in large pots.
"I grew up around so many women," says Learpoor. "It's like having different mothers all around."
Dances and beads
Outside the cottage, women sit on carpets to watch children. Sometimes they sing and dance to traditional Samburu songs, their brightly painted ornaments and wraps that move in excess. Other times they calmly make round necklaces, which is a trademark among the women of Samburu who they sell to make money for the community.
"When they sell necklaces, they give money to the village's matriarch, who then gives each family a quantity of food based on the number of children on one farm," Learpoor says. "Some of these funds are also meant to go to education, especially for young girls."
In addition to selling jewelery, women receive income from camping for tourists traveling to the nearby Samburu National Reserve. They also receive donations from good voters around the world who read about the village.
She wants girls to have choices
In a culture that does not believe in educating women, Learpoor is one of the village role models. She is in the 11th grade secondary school and hopes to become a teacher.
"If I hadn't come, I don't know what my life would be," she says. "I would probably have been subjected to female genital mutilation and older men become married as a second or third wife. These women brought me up, allowed me to get an education and offend all these traditions"
In Samburu culture, young women are forced to marry older men as second or third wives in exchange for a widow who is paid to their parents.
While times are changing and some of these techniques are gradually dying, Samburu is still one of Kenya's patriarchal and traditional cultures, which makes villages more abnormal.
Learpoor says when she grows, she wants to be a teacher and help women fight this way of thinking.
"I want to teach girls that education is important. You don't have to do FGM. It's just because its tradition doesn't mean it is the way it should be," she says.
Learpoora attends a mixed secondary school where she says she is learning to interact with young men. She wants to get married in the future, she says.
"But her next husband will have to face many mothers and prove he will not be abusive," says Jane Lengope, 45, one of Umoja's women. Learpoor's mother was out of town who visited relatives and was not available.
The village is not always popular
Although the village has empowered some women in society, it also has critics. Some people in nearby communities consider women too radical and capitalist.
Lawas Lemoro, 25, says she doesn't think women live in a same-sex society. "They broke into the night to meet people or bring them to the village," he says. "Either they use this story as a way to make money."
When asked if the men came to the village, Learpoor and the women say no. The only men who are trying to come are the men who are looking for their wives, she says, and they are being squeezed out quickly.
What happens when women leave?
Faith Mwangi-Powell, the global director of the Nairobi Girl Generation, says that while she congratulates women on the champions of change, their approach does not apply to the wider community.
"I think women are very courageous, and we need more courageous women, and that is the only way FGM ends – it must be congratulated by Umoja village," she says. "But we need to be aware of how this change can expose the whole community so that the girls in the village stay safe when they leave the village."
Mwangi-Powell says that without a comprehensive change, the village only provides temporary relief.
"What happens to them when they go back to these communities? Do they prepare these girls for the outside world? We have seen girls who have been rescued from FGM at an early age and when they marry [in] communities that are engaged in female genital mutilation are forced to undergo female genital mutilation and then fight rescue and protection, ”she says.
"Changes need to be comprehensive if there is a complete abandonment of social change in society so that everyone is safe no matter where they are."