Matriarchy Since Forever - Tribal Communities With Female Leaders



“Let the matriarchy begin!” This dialogue of Nairobi’s character from the famous web series Money Heist gained almost an equal popularity as the show itself. In ancient times, women were honored for their ability to bear children and to continue the human race. The historical works are flooded with the stories of goddesses and female warriors who were and are still worshiped. But with time, the society reshaped itself and adopted a patriarchal structure. 

Now when women are working towards gaining equity, there still exist some communities where the absolute powers lie with women of the community. Here are the major tribal communities from all over the globe that defied the patriarchal structure prevailing the world today. 

1. Khasi from India

Khasi is one among the various tribal communities inhabiting the Indian States of Meghalaya and Assam. The tribe has been practicing matriarchy as well as matrilineal descent for ages. In fact, it is believed to be the oldest matrilineal culture in the world. 

The youngest daughter inherits all the property from her mother. In case a couple doesn’t have a daughter, they can adopt a girl and entitle her as the heiress of her adoptive mother’s property. Not only this, when a woman gets marries, but her husband also moves to her place to live with her family. Apart from this, women are free to dress however they want, marry whoever they wish to get married to, and pursue any career they like. In fact, most of the small businesses in the state of Meghalaya are owned by women. This is how they ensure matrilineal descent along with having a matriarchal structure.

Matrilineal descent and Matriarchy are not the same terms. These are often mistaken to be synonymous with each other. Read more about Matrilineal Descent v/s Matriarchy

2. Mosuo from China

The Mosuo women are China's last surviving matriarchy. Currently, there are 40,000 women remaining in this community. They are living in Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces in China, close to the border with Tibet. Their social structure is rather complex. Women run the house, raise children, sow cops, and undertake important family decisions. Men can have a say in decision-making but the final say if that of the grandmother. 

Men often carry out strenuous tasks like plowing, repairing houses, and all other tasks demanding intense labor. But for women, men are often seen as sperm donors only. It is common for women to not know who exactly the father of her children is. But surprisingly, there is no stigma related to this. Uncles in the family are the only male influence for the children as they grow up. 

3. Umoja from Kenya

Founded in 1990, The Umoja tribe is truly a ‘No Man Land’, because men are literally banned! This is because this village is home to women who have experienced sexual or gender-based violence. There are about 50 women and 200 children who have created a livelihood for themselves. They show the tourists and visitors around the village and educate them about their rights. For the children, boys have to leave the village when they turn 18 while girls continue to live in the village. 

The elderly women teach the younger ones about topics like genital mutilation, forced abortions, etc, and others which they escaped themselves. The women make colorful beaded necklaces, bangles, anklets, and other jewelry that they make themselves. They also put these in the craft center which is put up for sale for visitors and tourists. In fact, they have built a school for the children of their village. The school is open to the children of nearby schools as well. 

4. Minangkabau from Indonesia

Muslim women from many Middle Eastern countries are fighting for placing a ban on veils which are seen as a symbol of oppression. On the other hand, Muslim women of Sumatra in Indonesia are exercising equal, if not more, power like men of the remaining world. In the Minangkabau community, women hold the pride of the place with having superiority in every sphere of life. 

Their social structure is largely put together through the matrilineal line of inheritance and giving prominent roles to women in public ceremonies. In fact, the most striking feature of this community is their belief that the mother is the most important person in society. Marriage is feasible within the Minangkabau society as long as the partners must have separate sleeping quarters.

5. Akan in Ghana

Akan people are a meta-ethnicity living in the southern regions of present-day Ghana and Ivory Coast in West Africa. Their social organization is built around strong matriarchal clans. The foundation of the matriarchy was laid by females. These clans are hierarchically organized and are subdivided into localized matrilineage. These sub-divisions form the basic social and political units of Akan society.

Within the Akan people, identity, wealth inheritance, and even politics are influenced by women. Men can hold positions within the clans. But the absolute power lies with the women of the various clans, hence the matriarchal structure is followed. 

Conclusion

For many centuries, the patriarchal structure has been robbing the women off of the powers they used to hold in the ancient times. The above-mentioned communities have either preserved or adopted matriarchy so that women can practice the power they deserve to practice. However, women all over the globe are now coming together to overthrow the patriarchy to gain equality in all walks of life. 

Read more: Toxic Masculinity- a Characteristic of Patriarchy  

Written By - Neha Kundu

Edited By - Kashish Chadha



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