Umoja Village, Samburu County, Kenya – Rosalina Learpoora has always been surrounded by women.
At the age of 18, he lives in a village of women in northern Kenya, where he spends his nights doing homework, milk linen or beading colored jewels.
Learpoora called Umoja's house since his arrival 3. There is a group of 48 women living with their children in houses protected by a thorny brush to avoid intruders. When a man transmits, he notifies the local police, they issue a warning or arrest the guilty, depending on the number of offenses.
Since then it has become a shelter, welcoming women who escape abusive marriages, female genital mutilation, rape and other forms of assault. Even some women who passed away by husbands have found consolation and a home there.
He went to town at 3 years
Learpoora never knew his father: he was told that he died when he was 3. He landed that his extended family would force her to suffer a female genital mutilation, the mother took her to the back and fled In Umoja, where he lived as part of the brotherhood for 15 years.
Umoja women are all Samburu culture, an extremely patriarchal society that practices female genital mutilation and believes in polygamy.
Umoja women span generations, with the oldest resident of the 98-year-old town and the youngest of six months. Women of all ages flee there, some with newly trapped babies.
When the guys who live there with their mothers reach the age of 18, they must leave the town, says Learpoora.
In the village, traditional Samburu houses, known as manyattas, point to the landscape. The sounds of chicken chickens and kids of laughter fill the air.
Like other women in the village, Learpoora lives with her mother in a small wooden factory, twigs and cow's pond. In the interior, the only light is from the bright fires of a fire anchored by three large rocks.
At night, the tiny and modular structures are full of life, with syringes of women that feel around the fire to talk about the day like beans and corn fried in large pots.
"I grew up surrounded by so many women," says Learpoora. "It's like having different mothers everywhere."
Dancing and beading
On the outskirts of the huts, women sit on carpets to see children play. Sometimes, they sing and dance to the traditional songs of Samburu, their brightly colored ornaments and the wraps that move with the rhythm. Other times, they silently make the necklaces of round necklaces that are a trademark among women Samburu, who sell to make money for the community.
"Once the necklaces come, they give money to the village matriarch, who then allocates the amount to eat each family based on the number of children for family property," says Learpoora. "Some of these money are also intended to go towards education, especially for young people."
In addition to selling gems, women earn income through the exploitation of a camping site so that tourists go safari to the nearby Samburu National Reserve. They also receive gifts from well-off people from all over the world who have read about the people.
She wants girls to have the power to choose
In a culture that does not believe in the education of women, Learpoora is one of the models of the city. He is in the 11th year at a nearby high school and expects to be a teacher.
"If I had not come here, I do not know what my life would be," she says. "I would have probably been subjected to female genital mutilation and married a second or third wife to an elderly man, these women raised me, they allowed me to have an education and challenged all these traditions."
Under the culture of Samburu, young women are forced to marry older men as second or third spouses in exchange for a dot that is paid to their parents.
While times are changing and some of these practices are slowly depleting, Samburu remains one of the most patriarchal and traditional cultures in Kenya, which makes the town an anomaly.
Learpoora says when she grows up, she wants to be a teacher and help women fight against this mentality.
"I want to teach girls that education is important, that it is not necessary to go through FGM. This is only because its tradition does not mean that it is the way it should be," he says.
Learpoora attends a mixed institute, where she says she learns to interact with young men. She wants to get married in the future, she says.
"But his future husband will have to meet many mothers and promise that he will not be abusive," says Jane Lengope, 45, a Umoja woman. Learpoora's mother was out of town visiting relatives and was not available.
The town is not always popular
While the town has enabled some women in the community, it also has its criticisms. Some of the residents of nearby communities describe women as too radical and capitalist.
Lawas Lemoro, 25, says he does not think women live in a single sex society. "They escaped midnight to meet men or take them to the village," he says. "Whether you are using history as a way to make money."
When asked if men enter the town, Learpoora and women say no. The only men who are trying to come are husbands in search of their wives, she says, and are quickly expelled.
What happens when women go out?
Faith Mwangi-Powell, the global director of The Girl Generation of Nairobi, says that while she applauds women to become champions of change, their approach does not address the problem in the broader community.
"I think that women are very brave and we need braver women and that's the only way FGM will finish, so I should congratulate the people of Umoja," he says. "But we have to figure out how this change can fit the entire community because the girls that grow up in the town remain safe when they leave the town."
Mwangi-Powell says without a global change, the people only provide temporary relief.
"What happens when they return to these communities? Are these girls prepared for the outside world? We have seen girls rescued from MGF at an early age and when they are home [in] In communities that practice FGM, they are forced to suffer from FGM and that counteracts rescue and protection, "he says.
"The change must be holistic, where there is a total abandonment to communities through social change, so that everyone is safe independently of where they are."