UMOJA - U.A.S.O. Women's Group
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The Samburu people practice polygamy, meaning that a man may have several wives. As such, a woman as young as 12 years old usually marries a man who is in his 30s, although she can also marry an elder well into his 60s, as long as he can pay the girl's family the appropriate dowry, usually in cows and goats. As such, young women are treated as property and are bought and sold in exchange for livestock.

Marriage generally cannot take place until a young woman is circumcised. If she refuses either circumcision or marriage, she will likely be beaten and shunned by her family. Nonetheless, refusal occurs infrequently, as most young girls have no conception that they have any right to refuse in the first place.

Once married, the young woman is forced to move to her husband's village and leave her own family. She is expected to cater to her husband's every demand, as well as take on most of the household's responsibilities, including finding income with which to purchase food, cooking, fetching water, and child rearing. Due to these overwhelming daily tasks, many young women are forced to leave school, forgoing any further education.

In addition, the husband may have several girlfriends and other wives, putting them all at risk of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, due to the man's unprotected sexual activities with multiple partners. The man may also marry again at any time he wishes, and may choose to abandon earlier wives and children entirely, leaving them without resources. Overall, these women are left without monetary resources, access to health care, or anyone to turn to for assistance. This situation is one many of Umoja's members have confronted. Umoja provides a safe haven for these young women, and attempts to intervene and prevent fathers from marrying off their daughters at young ages. Umoja's members are also committed to giving their own daughters the power of choice.


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