Samburu women in Kenya have a very low status amongst their community, which is primarily pastoralist - semi-nomadic. Development has barely reached the area, access to education is difficult.
Because of their low status, the women often suffer violence and mistreatment. They have joined together to form a women-only village called Umoja - meaning unity - where they provide security and support for each other. The village started about 15 years ago. Nowadays, they sell crafts they have made themselves, they own livestock, they have a group savings system, keep a campsite and centre for tourists running.
In 2005 the African Wildlife Foundation and the National Museums of Kenya gave the group training and technical assistance. The women underwent training on establishing a community museum, artifact acquisition, curation and conservation, group management skills, and field collection techniques.
Particular issues for this community are:
Inaccessibility - they live in a remote and sparsely populated area, neglected by central government services.
Education - many Samburu, especially women, receive little or no education. While primary education is free, books and uniforms are too expensive for many families. Children are expected to contribute to household chores, livestock care and the family income.
Drought - because they are pastoralists many communities migrate during the frequent droughts in the area.
Health - health services are largely inaccessible and up to 23% of the population is HIV positive. Family planning does not generally exist.
Forced Marriage - polygamy is practised and girls as young as 12 can be married to much older men. A man may choose to abandon a wife at any time. Umoja provides a safe haven for such women.
Female Genital Mutilation - widely practised as excision among the Samburu.
Spousal Abuse - women have a very subordinate status and are frequently subject to violence.
Property Rights - women cannot own property nor can they inherit. A widow is at the mercy of her sons or brothers-in-law who inherit everything from her husband.
Political Participation - although the Kenyan government promotes women's rights, because of the inaccessibility of the region, many laws which conflict with local practices are ignored.
Much more detailed information is available on the Umoja site itself.