These current societies ruled by women

Alexia Klingler

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Our western societies are often based on a model within power is in men’s hands. As we approach International Women’s Day, it is time to shed light on five curent societies where the patriarch is a woman.

MINANGKABAU, Indonesia
8 000 000 inhabitants

A Minangkabau bride and groom. © Mamasamala

It is in the largest muslim country in the world that the most notorious matriarch society exists. For Minangkabaus, goods, surnames and lands are transmitted from mother to daughter. Men possess nothing — if they want to make fortune they have to leave. The father is not even responsible of his children because this is maternal uncle’s task.

KHASI, India
1 300 000 inhabitants

Two Khasi girls in traditional dress at the Shad Suk Mynsiem dance, Shillong, Meghalaya, India. © Bogman

Within this Indian community, men achieve key positions but in the family they are the “weaker sex”. The male child is less considered than a girl and must leave his family to live with his in-laws at the moment he gets married. Children bear mother’s surname and in case of death all the fortune goes to the youngest girl who will be the guarantor of the tradition. By the way, since 2010, some men of the tribe protest to claim gender equality.

HAENYEO, Jeju Island, South Korea.
5 000 inhabitants

Haenyeo female divers. © Noby Leong/Flickr

Their name literally means “Sea ladies”. Since the 19th century, these women — whom 85% are older than 60 — free dive up to 20 meters and are used to stay two minutes under water, with a rudimentary equipment. This tradition has been installed when men’s work was heavily taxed. They are now limited to housework while their wives earn 700 euros by diving 15 days per month. The divers are the biggest pride of the island.

KIHNU, Estonia
490 inhabitants

Kihnu Island’s inhabitants in Estonian traditional clothes. © Visit Estonia/Flickr

On this Estonian Island men are fisher or navigator from father to son. So they have to sail the seas during long months, leaving wives and daughters ashore. They then learnt how to stand on their own before to displace men in all the aspects of Kihnu’s management : trade, education and politics.

 MOSUO, Yunnan and Sichuan, China
30 000 inhabitants

Extended family in Moso. © Niflheim974

Members of this mountain community live over 2500 meters in altitude. They are nicknamed “Nas” and are all bearing the surname of the home’s oldest women, she is the mother of the clan. Their sexuality is also very free because men and women can have as many lovers as desired without being frowned upon. Mosuo’s men are looking after physical tasks and politics.

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Alexia Klingler

MA Journalism student, Griffith College Dublin.