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Rebecca Lolosoli

Founder & Matriarch, Umoja Village (Kenya)

Rebecca Lolosoli is the founder and matriarch of the Umoja village in the Samburu County of Kenya. The village is a refuge for women fleeing sexual abuse, and men are banned from the village. She plans to run for local office and will be the first Samburu woman ever to do so.

She married Fabiano David Lolosoli at age 18 and her dowry consisted of 17 cows. She created her own business selling goods in the village and stood up for the rights of other women. When her husband left for business, she was beaten by four men who took her money. When her husband did nothing to help her, nor object, she left him. In 1990, she and a few other women founded the village of Umoja, and made it a woman-only space. In 1995, the women of Umoja elected her to chair the Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO), an organization for the enhancement of women. She held the post for ten years. In 2005, Lolosoli attended a United Nations conference in New York. She received death threats from local men over her stance on women's rights just before she went to New York. Umoja was attacked in 2009 by Lolosoli's former husband, armed with a gun. He chased the women out of their home and allegedly was looking for Rebecca, who was not home at the time. In 2010, she was awarded the Global Leadership Award from Vital Voices.

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