MADRE staff and members recently returned from a delegation to Kenya, where they visited Umoja and other nearby villages. Umoja is an Indigenous Samburu community established and led by women who have declared their village a violence-against-women-free zone, and is the site of Breaking the Silence, an initiative to fight HIV/AIDS and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) among young Indigenous Kenyan women. MADRE works in Umoja through the Indigenous Information Network (IIN), our sister organization in Kenya.
While visiting Umoja and other Indigenous Maasai communities near Nairobi, the delegation met with activists who promote women’s health and human rights and advocate for the environmental preservation and sustainable development of Indigenous Peoples' lands. MADRE staff and delegates returned invigorated and inspired by the work of MADRE's partners to promote Indigenous Peoples' rights and end sexual violence and HIV throughout their communities.
During the delegation, MADRE staff facilitated human rights trainings for women in the communities they visited, and welcomed many additional participants from the villages nearby. Delegates had a chance to participate in the workshops and hear directly from Samburu and Maasai women and youth about topics such as women's political participation, women's human rights, and HIV/AIDS. Young people—including students from the US and Latin America, and youth from Umoja and nearby communities—participated in an exchange during which they shared perspectives on issues such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and community involvement.
As part of a related educational initiative called Hope for the Future, MADRE also offered early-childhood education trainings to teachers in three villages, including Umoja. MADRE brought the director of a local pre-school in New York as a Sisters Without Borders volunteer to conduct the workshops, where local teachers received training in early childhood development and pedagogical models to improve their skills as pre-school teachers. With the outstanding support of delegates, MADRE was also able to deliver donated school supplies, didactic materials, and toys to pre-schools in and nearby Umoja. Delegates were invited to help decorate Umoja's school with the new materials, which amplified the students’ excitement about the coming school year. MADRE hopes to continue working with the women of Umoja in the future, to bring high quality trilingual education to the Umoja School so that the residents of Umoja can become empowered and effective participants in the development of Kenya.