The Most Sexist Things To Occur At The 2016 Rio Olympics So Far

Nothing like the Olympics to remind the world how a woman can’t accomplish anything without either being compared to a man who does the same thing, being labeled as a “wife” or “mother” above anything else, or being blatantly patronized on national television.

Here are the most sexist things that have happened at the 2016 Rio Olympics thus far the key phrase being “thus far.” There’s still a lot of Olympics left to go, ladies. (And none of this new or unique to Rio, there is a long history of sexist Olympics coverage.)

1. As three-time world champion Simone Biles flies from the uneven bars and soars above the mat before sticking a near-perfect landing, an NBC commentator says, “I think she might even go higher than some of the men.” For whatever reason, a lot of the male NBC anchors decided viewers might not fully grasp just how talented these female athletes are without first comparing them to men. This was the first of many times they did this throughout the games, and each time was just as unnecessary as the first.  

2. The Chicago Tribune labeled two-time bronze medal-winning Olympian Corey Cogdell as “Wife of a Bears’ lineman.” Not only is an Olympic medal-winning, world class athlete being reduced to simply a “wife,” but it doesn’t even matter which lineman she’s married to. Being married to the vague idea of a professional football player, no matter which one, is more deserving of a call-out than a women being one of the best trap shooters in the world. It’s great of The Chicago Tribune to acknowledge the feedback, because while there was no ill-will behind the tweet, and it was a way to localize an international story, they at least respect the fact that it struck a chord with a lot of women who are frustrated with the way the media covers women in sports, defining them more often by their appearance or martial status than by their strength or speed. 


3. Everyone is making a big deal about U.S. Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer having a baby more than a year ago. “She’ll be the first woman to win a medal after having a baby,” the NBC commentator says, because they love to get real granular with the whole “first to win” labels. The media attention around her being a motherit’s hard to find an article that doesn’t mention she’s a “new mom”implies that women who have children are then incapable of all the things they did before giving birth. Which isn’t true, and in fact research suggests the opposite. While it’s an incredible feat to give birth and go on to train for the Olympics, a feat only a woman can accomplish, and being a “momma on a mission” is a part of Vollmer’s personal brand, she was still a world-class athlete before having her child, so the fact that she continues to be after giving birth isn’t that shocking. Women are strong as hell. 


4. When 19-year-old Katie Ledecky was busy breaking a world record in the 400-meter freestyle by nearly a full two seconds, NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines said, “Some people say she swims like a man,” probably talking about his slew of sexist coworkers at NBC. “She doesn’t swim like a man, she swims like Katie Ledecky!” It’s great of Gaines to make this point, but it’s not a point he should have to make. People should be able to acknowledge her incredible athletic ability without comparing her to a man. I wonder if men understand how ridiculous this soundslike if a judge on Project Runway said, “People say he sews like a woman, but he sews like Jay McCarroll!” And to be clear, Gaines’ comment wasn’t sexist, he was calling out the many sexist comments made by fellow swimmers, like Ryan Lochte, who said her strokes and mentality were “like a guy,” and media outlets, like the Daily Mail, which referred to her as the “female Michael Phelps.” His comment highlights the sexism surrounding Ledecky’s media coverage. 


5. Immediately after Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu broke the world record in the 400-meter individual medley, hard emphasis on individual, NBC announcer Dan Hicks immediately focused the attention on (and gave all the credit to) Hosszu’s coach and husband Shane Tusup, saying he was “the man responsible” for her performance. He’s since defended his comments, saying, “It’s impossible to tell Katinka’s story accurately without giving appropriate credit to Shane,” despite many believing Tusup uses fear tactics to push Hosszu. Even if Tusup deserves credit for his role in coaching Hosszu, she was still the one in the pool, she broke the world record, so maybe wait for her to at least dry off and accept her medal before gushing about Tusup.


6. Turns out even if you’re an Olympic athlete, you still can’t avoid being labeled as a “girl,” when you’re clearly a grown woman. At one point, NBC announcers referred to the “men’s cycling team,” and the “girls’ cycling team.” Ugh. And another commentator referred to four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin as an “enthusiastic girl.” 


7. In between dominating the competition, the U.S. gymnastics team talked to each other on the sidelines. Most likely not about boys and makeup (but if they were, that’d be fine too), but probably about how they were leading the rest of the world by nearly 10 points. “They might as well be standing around at the mall,” Jim Watsonsaid, ignoring the fact that after training 30-plus hours every week, these young women probably don’t have too much time to go shopping. His response to criticism was even more cringeworthy, saying “Don’t boys hang out in malls too? I did.” And with that logic, sexism is solved. 


8. NBC’s chief marketing officer John Miller declared that women aren’t into sports, but they’re very into reality TV. When explaining the network’s tape-delaying and packaging of the Olympics, Miller said,“The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.” This is offensive on all kinds of levels. For starters, he implies that “sports fans” and “women” are mutually exclusive. He also implies that women watch the Olympics because they’re hoping two people will fall in love and retreat to the Fantasy Suite, rather than, oh, I don’t know, actually wanting to watch sports. It’s also likely that more women tune in to see women’s sports, which are covered significantly less than men’s.


9. After Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom broke her own world record in the 100-meter butterfly, she was continually asked by NBC anchors if she was going to “do the samba on Copacabana Beach,” which she apparently said she’d do if she won. Not only was NBC oddly fixated on this, they even went so far as to suggest the offhand comment was “interesting for this reason: it’s unclear how seriously the Swede takes the 200m freestyle.” NBC, calm down. Have you ever been so hungry you’d “kill for some food.” That doesn’t mean you’re going to murder anyone, and it doesn’t mean you take air or shelter any less seriously. The expression on Sjostrom’s face when they asked about the samba indicates she clearly either didn’t remember saying it or thought American newscasters were ridiculous.


10. Rio promises the “sexiest ever” Olympic opening ceremony, with a source saying there will be “lots of nearly naked women doing the samba. The costumes have been designed to show off as much flesh as possible which means as little material as they can get away with.” They added that, “This is Brazil, after all, where the female body is celebrated like no other place on Earth.” While this is a nice sentiment, it’s also not entirely accurate, considering a recent report revealed a woman is raped every 11 minutes in Brazil. So maybe that wasn’t the best way to frame the opening ceremony, before a major world event where so many women have been training their whole lives to be looked at as more than just a piece of flesh, and more than a wife and mother. They’d like to be recognized as the badass, legendary athletes they are. 

Image by Ezra Shaw/GETTY

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Meet The Badass 16-Year-Old Boricua Repping The U.S. In The Olympics

Laurie Hernandez is already making history on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team and she hasn’t even arrived to Rio de Janeiro, yet. 

The Puerto Rican gymnast became the first U.S.-born Latina to make the team since 1984 on Sunday night. Cuban-born gymnast Annia Hatch did compete in 2004 for Team USA, but that still makes Hernandez only the third Latina in history to make the team and the first Boricua. 



A photo posted by Laurie Hernandez (@lauriehernandez_) on

Hernandez, who was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, wowed audiences during the Olympic Gymnastics Trials thanks to her expressive performances she’s been nicknamed “the human emoji”  and her always on beat floor routine. Not to mention, the 16-year-old is one of the youngest gymnasts on Team USA’s Rio squad.


After her first day at Olympic trials, Hernandez told reporters she didn’t feel extra pressure to succeed because of her heritage but instead felt happy to be able to represent her culture. 

“I don’t see it as pressure, at all,” she said. “I see it as such an honor to just in some sort of way represent Puerto Rico and Hispanics and all the girls out there. You know what, I don’t think that being Hispanic, being Black, being white — I don’t think that limits you to anything. I think everyone should just go for what they want.”

And Hernandez certainly is going for what she wants, she’s a rising star on the team due to her charismatic personality and solid performances on the balance beam. 


She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25

A photo posted by Laurie Hernandez (@lauriehernandez_) on

Hernandez won’t be the only Boricua representing the good ole U-S-of-A at Rio, John Orozco will also compete in Brazil for the men’s gymnastics team. The Bronx-born gymnast, who competed on the 2012 London Olympic team, broke down after qualifying for the team in June, overcoming multiple emotional and physical setbacks months prior. 

We’ll certainly be looking out for their Puerto Rican star power on their road to Rio.


Get your gear at #teamusa #roadtorio #gymnastics

A photo posted by John Orozco (@johnorozcousa) on



A photo posted by Laurie Hernandez (@lauriehernandez_) on

Find more information on the women who made Team USA’s Rio squad here and Hernandez’s gymnastics career here

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Construction Worker Hides Waldo On Site For Kids In Hospital Next Door

One man is helping kids find a little joy.

Jason Haney, a construction foreman, hides a life-size cutout he made of Where’s Waldo on site every day for kids who are staying at a hospital next door to find.

“It’s just for the kids to get their minds off of things,”Haney told The Huffington Post. “I just wanted them to have fun.”

Heidi Prescott / Beacon Health System
A patient and parent look for Waldo on the construction site.

Once the children at Memorial Children’s Hospital in South Bend, Indiana pin-point Waldo, Haney is notified and then moves the large cutout to a new hiding spot. It’s become so popular amongst patients and staff, that Haney has even started a Facebook group so people can post pictures of their finds.

Rhonda Stewart
Picture posted on the Facebook group of a Waldo sighting.

Haney, who is working on a $50 million expansion at Memorial Children’s Hospital, got the idea after he and workers got word that a snowman they had built on the site last winter delighted patients and staff. Soon after that, Haney placed a blow-up snowman  and a blow-up Sponge Bob Square Pants for the kids to see. Then a co-worker gave him a brilliant idea.

“He came up to me, and was kind of joking around, and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a Waldo up here?’” Haney told HuffPost. “And I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s kind of cool.’ Then the idea sat in my head for a little while and I was like, ‘I’m going to make him, I’m going to do it!’”

Heidi Prescott / Beacon Health System

Haney  took a 4-by-8 sheet of plywood, drew the outline of the iconic children’s book character and cut it out. With the help of his teenage daughter, Taylor ­— who needed extended care at another children’s hospital when she was 3 years old due due to a stroke — they painted the plywood red and white until Waldo came to life.

In April, Haney debuted Waldo on the site, placing it within eye shot for pediatric patients on the sixth floor to see. 

And just like the famous books, Waldo was a hit.

“He’s eight-feet tall and a pain in the butt to move around sometimes,” Haney admitted. “He’s 50, 60 pounds and he’s awkward to carry. But it’s worth it for the kids.”

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Dogs Before And After Their Haircuts (16 Pics)

I am an animal photographer named Grace Chon and these images are from my new photo series titled HAIRY.

I’ve always found before and after photos from dog grooming to be really funny. Usually it doesn’t even look like it’s the same dog in each photo! I had the idea of shooting a photo series that highlighted this extreme transformation. Each dog went way beyond their normal grooming schedule to grow their hair long and shaggy for the shoot. There’s something so funny to me about seeing a dog so shaggy that they can’t even see! I wanted the after photos to be really extreme by showing a type of cut that’s uncommon to most of us here in the United States.

All the dogs have been groomed in a Japanese grooming style, which doesn’t follow the usual breed standard cuts and rules for grooming that we’re used to seeing. Rather, the emphasis is on making the dog look as adorable as possible – cute on steroids- by highlighting the uniquely cute characteristics of the dog. These cuts are works of art – each haircut takes hours as the majority of the styling is all done with hand scissoring. All the dogs in the series were groomed by the incredibly talented groomers from Healthy Spot in Los Angeles, CA. Many of the groomers there specialize in this style of cut and have been trained by masters from Japan. Hope you enjoy!

Biggie Smalls Before


Biggie Smalls After (grooming by Cameron Adkins)


Rocco Before


Rocco After (grooming by Patricia Sugihara)


Herman Before


Herman After (grooming by Cindy Reyes)


Raider Before


Raider After (grooming by Koko Fukaya)


Lana Before


Lana After (grooming by Koko Fukaya)


Athena Before


Athena After (grooming by Donna Owens)


Teddy Before


Teddy After (grooming by Donna Owens)


Yuki Before


Yuki After (grooming by Alyson Ogimachi)


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Breathtaking Photos Capture Cuba’s Legendary Ballerinas Dancing In The Streets

In Cuba, the ballet is something of a national treasure. The dancers recruited into Alicia Alonso’s storied company Ballet Nacional de Cuba, for example, reportedly make more money than doctors and enjoy a level of fandom reserved only for pop stars in the United States. The Cuban government not only funds ballet training but also subsidizes tickets to ballet performances. Lovers of Cuban dance like to say the adoration and skill is in their DNA.

You can find anyone in the street here in Havana who can dance as well as most professionals,” Cuba’s Ballet Rakatan choreographer Nilda Guerra told The Guardian.

And in a country historically associated with machismo, it’s not just women enjoying the allure of ballet. “Before, ballet in Cuba was a marginalized extravagance,” the New York Times wrote in 2005. “Now, men in one of the world’s most macho countries clamor to put on dancing tights.” Cuban-born Royal Ballet dancer Carlos Acosta reiterates the sentiment: “I wanted to play football and I was like this reckless child. But when I saw the professionals of the National Ballet School of Cuba perform for the first time, it changed my life forever.”


Javier Rojas & Keyvin Martnez #OZR_Dance || #|| #Cuba

A photo posted by Omar Z. Robles (@omarzrobles) on

Photographer Omar Robles has long been entranced by the country’s legacy of dance. He recently traveled to Cuba to explore the men and women who have made ballet such a staple of their lives. 

“Over the past two years I’ve devoted my work almost exclusively to photographing ballet dancers within urban settings,” Robles wrote on his blog. “Cuba has one of the top ranked ballet companies, thus why I dreamt of visiting the island for a long time. Their dancers are just some of the best dancers in the world. Perhaps it is because movement and rhythm runs in their Afro-Caribbean blood, but most likely it is due to the Russian school of training which is part of their heritage.”

The resulting photographs, featured on his Instagram, capture some of Cuba’s best talent jumping, twirling and stretching in the streets, providing a beautiful and even surreal glimpse of just how deeply rooted Cuban ballet is. Below is a brief interview with Robles on how he came to photography and how his trip to Cuba impacted his work.

What is your background? Where were you born and how did you get into photography?

I was born in Puerto Rico August 1980. I moved to the U.S. in 2011, first to Chicago then to NYC in 2013. I started doing photography when I was finishing my bachelor’s degree in visual arts and communications. Photography was part of my curriculum. When I started photographing, I realized that, like mime theater, photography was an amazing nonverbal communication medium. Yet it allowed [me] to capture fleeting emotions and tell a story for a much longer time than mime theater could. 


Javier Rojas #OZR_Dance || #|| #

A photo posted by Omar Z. Robles (@omarzrobles) on

Speaking of mime theater, can you tell me a little bit more about how Marcel Marceau has influenced your photography?

Marceau had a lot of things to say, amongst them, he would often tell us: “Never get a mime talking, he will never shut up.” It was a joke, but what he meant to teach us from that was that as artists, we needed to be eloquent within simplicity. To be economical with our movements and to be able to evoke emotion rather than to show emotion. This was woven into my artistic DNA, and it is still the way I try to create even when I photograph. 


Yanet lvarez #OZR_Dance || # || #Cuba

A photo posted by Omar Z. Robles (@omarzrobles) on

How and when did you decide to pursue street photography with dancers?

It was about two and a half years ago. I had been building a portfolio shooting street and documentary photography. Part of me missed my performance background. Shooting dancers started to be a way of conciliating my performance background with my photography. 


Sadaise Arencibia #OZR_Dance || # || #Cuba #

A photo posted by Omar Z. Robles (@omarzrobles) on

What brought you to Cuba?

I was able to go to Cuba thanks to a grant from the Bessie Foundation. I had dreamt about going there for quite some time. Historically, Cuban dancers are some of the best in the world, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to go there. At the same time, Puerto Rico and Cuba have a strong connection.


Laura Tosar @lauratosar #OZR_Dance || #|| #Cuba

A photo posted by Omar Z. Robles (@omarzrobles) on

How would you describe your experience there, in the country and with the dancers?

I can only describe it as life-altering. Their philosophy and respect toward each other is incredible. Culture and art are highly valued and you can see how that makes a difference in the country’s perspective. In spite of all their struggles, the general atmosphere in Cuba remains optimistic. It was that optimism that stuck with me the most. The dancers have a great a sense of self-respect and pride, mostly due to the country’s attitude toward the arts. This also stuck with me. 


Daniela Fabelo #OZR_Dance || #|| #Cuba

A photo posted by Omar Z. Robles (@omarzrobles) on


Patricia Santamarina. @patrillet #OZR_Dance || # || #Cuba

A photo posted by Omar Z. Robles (@omarzrobles) on


Keyvin Martnez #OZR_Dance || #|| #Cuba

A photo posted by Omar Z. Robles (@omarzrobles) on


Esteban Aguilar #OZR_Dance || # || #Cuba

A photo posted by Omar Z. Robles (@omarzrobles) on

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Alia Atkinson wins a new world record and a first for a black woman

Bim Adewunmi: The Jamaican 100m breaststroke swimmer has double cause to celebrate after her record-breaking win at the Fina World Swimming championships

A big congratulations to Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson, who isa new 100m breaststroke champion. Atkinson completed the race in 1minute and 2.36 seconds at the Fina World Swimming championships in Doha at the weekend, equalling the record set by Lithuanian swimmer Rta Meilutyt. Atkinson is the first ever black woman to win a world swimming title.

Atkinson, who mostly trains in Florida,where she also works with theInternational Swimming Hall of Fame to promote swimming toyoungsters from different communities, looked overwhelmed byher win on Saturday.

According to a 2010 survey byUSA Swimming, 69% of African American children have low or no swimming ability. The stereotype of black people refusing to learn how to swim is a stubborn one to shake, but with Atkinsons win and others such as Justin Lynch (an 18-year-old California swimmer who broke Michael Phelpss 2001 national age-group record last year) perhaps it is beingeroded.

After her win, Atkinson told AFP: Hopefully, my face willcome out, there willbemore popularity, especially in Jamaica and theCaribbean, and well seemore of a rise.

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The village where men are banned

Only women are allowed to live in Umoja. Julie Bindel visits the Kenyan village that began as a refuge for survivors of sexual violence and discovers its inhabitants are thriving in the single-sex community

Jane says she was raped by three men wearing Gurkha uniforms. She was herding her husbands goats and sheep, and carrying firewood, when she was attacked. I felt so ashamed and could not talk about it to other people. They did terrible things to me, says Jane, her eyes alive with pain.

She is 38 but looks considerably older. She shows me a deep scar on her leg where she was cut by stones when she was pushed to the ground. In a quiet, hesitant voice she continues her story. I eventually told my husbands mother that I was sick, because I had to explain the injuries and my depression. I was given traditional medicine, but it did not help. When she told my husband [about the rape], he beat me with a cane. So I disappeared and came here with my children.

Jane is a resident of Umoja, a village in the grasslands of Samburu, in northern Kenya, surrounded by a fence of thorns. I arrive in the village at the hottest time of the day, when the children are sleeping. Goats and chickens wander around, avoiding the bamboo mats on which women sit making jewellery to sell to tourists, their fingers working quickly as they talk and laugh with each other. There are clothes drying in the midday sun on top of the huts made from cow dung, bamboo and twigs. The silence is broken by birdsong, shrill, sudden and glorious. It is a typical Samburu village except for one thing: no men live here.

My arrival is greeted by singing and dancing from the women. They wear traditional Samburu dress of patterned skirts, brightly coloured shirts and a kanga (a colourful wrap) tied on their shoulders. Necklaces made of strings of vividly coloured beads form stunning circular patterns around their necks. The colourful clothing contrasts with the dry air and terrain, and the harsh sun that picks out the dust that fills the air.

I heard of a womens community from gossip in my old village: Seita Lengima, 68. Photograph: Georgina Goodwin for the Observer

The village was founded in 1990 by a group of 15 women who were survivors of rape by local British soldiers. Umojas population has now expanded to include any women escaping child marriage, FGM (female genital mutilation), domestic violence and rape all of which are cultural norms among the Samburu.

Rebecca Lolosoli is the founder of Umoja and the village matriarch. She was in hospital recovering from a beating by a group of men when she came up with the idea of a women-only community. The beating was an attempt to teach her a lesson for daring to speak to women in her village about their rights. The Samburu are closely related to the Maasai tribe, speaking a similar language. They usually live in groups of five to 10 families and are semi-nomadic pastoralists. Their culture is deeply patriarchal. At village meetings men sit in an inner circle to discuss important village issues, while the women sit on the outside, only occasionally allowed to express an opinion. Umojas first members all came from the isolated Samburu villages dotted across the Rift valley. Since then, women and girls who hear of the refuge come and learn how to trade, raise their children and live without fear of male violence and discrimination.

There are currently 47 women and 200 children in Umoja. Although the inhabitants live extremely frugally, these enterprising women and girls earn a regular income that provides food, clothing and shelter for all. Village leaders run a campsite, a kilometre away by the river, where groups of safari tourists stay. Many of these tourists, and others passing through nearby nature reserves, also visit Umoja. The women charge a modest entrance fee and hope that, once in the village, the visitors will buy jewellery made by the women in the craft centre.

Lolosoli is tall and powerfully built, her shaven head adorned with the traditional Samburu beaded ornaments. I am told by a number of the women in Umoja that Lolosoli has faced repeated threats and attacks from local men since setting up the village, but she is undeterred. I spoke to Lolosoli before travelling to Umoja she was visiting her daughter in Germany during my visit and she sounded proud of all that she and the other women had achieved in the 25 years since the villages foundation.

Craft work: China Laprodati with her baby selling her jewellery. Photograph: Georgina Goodwin for the Observer

One of the unique features of the Umoja community is that some of the more experienced residents train and educate women and girls from surrounding Samburu villages on issues such as early marriage and FGM. Ornate beaded jewellery is an important accoutrement of Samburu culture. Girls get their first necklaces from their father in a ceremony known as beading. The father chooses an older warrior male with which the daughter will enter into a temporary marriage at this time. Pregnancy is forbidden, but contraceptives are unavailable. If the child becomes pregnant, she is forced into an abortion, conducted by other women in the village.

If a girl is married at an early age, that girl will not be a competent parent. Giving birth they face a lot of challenges: they rupture, they bleed, because they are young, says Milka, head of the academy school built on the land owned by the Umoja women which is open to children from surrounding villages. Even performing their duties, their chores, it is hard for them. They are thrown into taking care of animals.

Under the tree of speech, where the women gather to make decisions, I speak to several residents keen to tell their stories.

I have learned to do things here that women are normally forbidden to do, says Nagusi, a middle-aged woman with five children. I am allowed to make my own money, and when a tourist buys some of my beads I am so proud.

Memusi is the official greeter. She walks towards me, the beads adorning her head and neck making soft clicking noises in the gentle breeze. She ran away from her husband after just one day of marriage, in 1998. I was traded for cows by my father when I was 11 years old, she tells me with the help of an interpreter. My husband was 57.

Childs play: nursery school children. Some 200 children live in the village. Photograph: Georgina Goodwin for the Observer

Judia, a talkative, confident 19-year-old, came to Umoja aged 13, having run away from home to avoid being sold into marriage. Every day I wake and smile to myself because I am surrounded by help and support, says Judia, her long plaits held back by colourful lengths of beads.

Outside, women are being ruled by men so they cant get any change, says Seita Lengima, an elderly woman I meet in the communal shaded area in the village. The women in Umoja have freedom.

Curiously, for an all-woman village, there seems to be a lot of children around. How does this happen? Ah, laughs a young woman, we still like men. They are not allowed here, but we want babies and women have to have children, even if you are unmarried.

Lotukoi is the only man I meet in Umoja. He arrives in the village every day, before sunrise, to tend to the herds. Children, firewood and cooking are womens business, and men look after the animals, he tells me when I ask why the women need him to help. Its funny because you dont see men around here but you see small children, which means women go get men outside, he says.

There is still suspicion of the village in the neighbourhood. In the next village, Samuel, the village elder, tells me that the majority of men have three to four wives in this village. He is chatting with a small group of men holding wooden spears and dressed in colourful tartan shukkas (wraps). They seem happy to talk about Umoja and become animated when I ask how the women manage to cope in such a male-dominated society. This is a village of women who live alone, who are not married some of them are rape victims, some are child marriage cases. They think they are living without men, but that is not possible.

Many of them end up with babies, continues Samuel, tapping his spear to emphasise his point, because they meet men in the towns and get seduced by them, and men come here in the nights and go into their huts. Nobody else sees them. The men all laugh.

Every day I wake and smile to myself: Norkorchom from Turkana. Photograph: Georgina Goodwin for the Observer

One young woman in Umoja tells me she has five children, all with different fathers. It is not good to be unmarried and have children in our culture, she tells me, washing baby clothes in a blue plastic bucket, using some of the precious water she collected early that morning from the nearby river. But it is worse not to have any. Without children we are nothing.

As the community of Umoja has grown, the memories of one of the main causes of it the rape they were subjected to by British solders and Gurkhas do not fade. Once a woman is raped, they are not clean any more in Islam and Quran culture. It is not fair, because it happens by accident. The husband could have taken them for an HIV test so that they can continue with life, take care for their children and feed them, says Sammy Kania, 33.

Back in Umoja I am invited by Seita into her hut, pungent with woodsmoke. It is bare inside except for a mat on which she sleeps, her makeshift fire and a paper bag full of dried black beans which she will cook at midday for the communal meal when the children break from school.

I ask how Seita knew about Umoja. I heard of a womens community from gossip in my old village, she tells me and says she was happy from the first moment she arrived. I was given a goat. I was given water. I started to feel safe and secure.

Seita takes care of her granddaughter, dropping her at school each day before going to collect water and firewood. The rest of her day is taken up with making jewellery. She tells me she was raped by British soldiers. I came because I was left unmarried. After what the British did to me, I would never be able to marry.

I ask Seita her age, and she tells me she does not know. Passing me her ID card, Seita tells me her birthdate is apparently on it. Like many older Samburu women, Seita can neither read nor write. Her birthdate on the card is 1928.

I join a number of the women as they gather under the bamboo shade that serves as a communal space. When I arrived at the village, I asked if any of the women would be prepared to talk to me about their experiences of sexual violence at the hands of the military. They put their pricks in you, didnt they? jokes Memusi. The women, despite their horrendous experiences, are able to laugh.

Ntipaiyo, stooped from age and hard work, her ribs visible through her colourful clothes, has been at the village for 15 years. I came here because of problems with my husband, she tells me. The British army got me when I was collecting firewood. There were three of them. They pushed me to the ground. Since that day, I have always felt pain in my chest whenever I remember.

In 2003, a group of women from Umoja met with solicitors from Leigh Day, a UK-based practice that held a monthly surgery in nearby Archers Post to work with locals who had been injured by bombs left behind by the British army.

The women disclosed allegations of rape spanning 30 years. Most women reported cases of gang rape by soldiers, who attacked the women when they were out gathering firewood or fetching clean water.

Up in smoke: Gabriella, 24, gathering firewood. Photograph: Georgina Goodwin for the Observer

Martyn Day, a partner at Leigh Day, was one of the lawyers approached by the women. Day and his team gathered a number of original documents, such as police and medical reports. There was a number of mixed-race children, yet relationships between Samburu and white people were unheard of.

Day reported his findings to the Royal Military Police. However [the RMP] came to the view that every single one of these entries had been forged, even in the strongest cases identified, says Day. They made no DNA checks on the mixed-race children because of the estimated 65,000 to 100,000 soldiers who would have been in Kenya during the 30-year period.

When the RMP had concluded its investigation, Day requested the documentation back but was told that it had all gone missing. The paperwork has never been found.

The case is not closed but, says Day, it would be extremely difficult to relaunch without the documentation. We wanted to argue for compensation for the women and girls who had suffered at the hands of the soldiers, says Day. Their lives were, quite literally, ruined.

Jane, who came to Umoja to escape her abusive husband after being raped by the Gurkhas, has no plans to remarry, but wishes to stay in the village so that she can be supported and her children can go to school. I want my children to be free to marry who they choose for themselves, she says.

Many of the women tell me they cannot imagine living with a man again after they have been living in Umoja. Towards the end of my visit I meet Mary, 34, who tells me she was sold to a man of 80 for a herd of cows when she was 16 years old. I dont want to ever leave this supportive community of women, she says.

Mary shows me a handful of dried beans that she will be cooking soon for dinner. We dont have much, but in Umoja I have everything I need.

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