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8 matriarchal societies from around the world
Posted on 19/07/2019


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Who runs the world? In these 8 societies, girls really do. Although matriarchy is not necessarily the way to bring down the largely patriarchal system we live in, it's worth having a look at what life is like when women are considered the pillars of society.

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  • The Mosuo, China
    The Mosuo, China

    The Mosuo people are probably the most well known matriarchal society in the world. Living in the rural areas of Yunnan and Sichuan in southern China, these families are led by a matriarch who is in charge of most decisions concerning the household such as money, tasks and property. Mosuo ancestry is traced matrilineally and they perform non-legally-binding "walking marriages", which involve the husband and wife living in separate houses, and only seeing each other at night. Because of this, Mosuo children are raised by their mother and her brother(s), and property is passed on through the mother's family.

  • The Minangkabau, Indonesia
    The Minangkabau, Indonesia

    The vast majority of the Minangkabau people live in West Sumatra, Indonesia, where they reside in these pointy houses that are traditionally built according to rules outlined by their ancestors. These communities generally follow a system in which men are exchanged into the woman's family, rather than the other way around, as is seen in many other societies. Although Minangkabau families are matrilineal, they are not necessarily led by a matriarch or a patriarch, and are seen as an equal society which is not necessarily led but simply works as a unit.

  • The Bribri, Costa Rica
    The Bribri, Costa Rica

    The Bribri people live in the mountainous area between Panama and Costa Rica, but mostly inhabit the Talamanca region of the latter, near the Sixaola River. These families are led by women, and clans are formed through a matrilineal system. The Bribri traditionally live off the land, farming cacao, bananas and plantains, although in modern society, many Bribri organisations have been created, which sell handmade chocolate. Cacao is extremely significant for the Bribri, and a special cacao drink made to celebrate a young woman's first menstruation can only be prepared by female members of the clans.

  • The Navajo, USA
    The Navajo, USA

    The Navajo people are Native Americans who live in the southwestern United States. The Navajo Nation lies mostly within Arizona, but also crosses over into Utah and New Mexico. Monument Valley in Arizona (pictured) is actually owned and operated by the Navajo Nation. Although modern communities are generally absent of hierarchy, the Navajo were traditionally a matriarchal people; the female head of the family would oversee the general workings of the household and be the first person awake and the last person to bed each day. Also, property and lineage are generally passed on through the mother's side of the family.

  • The Khasi, India
    The Khasi, India

    Meghalaya in northeast India is home to the Khasi tribe, said to be the largest surviving matrilineal culture in the world. They are known for building live root bridges, like the one in this picture. With a population of over 1 million, the Khasi people are led by women, and children take their mother's last name. In fact, women are so important in these tribes that the birth of a girl is celebrated, whereas the birth of a son is simply accepted. Some groups of men have formed in protest of their subordinate position in this society, as they do not inherit property or run family businesses. However, despite having little power within their families, the Khasi are governed by a largely male-dominated assembly.