Matriarchal societies in the world

The mission of St. Kate’s is clear. To “educate [strong women] to lead and influence” (Mission and Vision). I personally came to this university to be exposed to powerful, educated women; I wanted to learn a new definition of feminine that allowed me to be assertive. That is exactly what I have gotten since I’ve been here, and I am extremely glad to be a Katie.


Emma Hargreaves

“St. Kate’s goal is to groom women to be powerful leaders as well as helpers.”

St. Kate’s is a matriarchy, run and staffed mostly by women. It has come to my attention that there are other admirable matriarchal societies that operate as living proof that women across cultures and continents are more than capable of taking matters into their own hands. With that, here are three existing matriarchal societies around the world that deserve attention.

Roughly 240 miles North-East of Nairobi and smack dab in the middle of Kenya there is a village called Umoja. For all intents and purposes, it is a typical village in the Samburu area, but with one radical difference: it is populated only by women. Umoja was founded in 1990 by 15 women with the intent of fleeing domestic and cultural abuse ranging from rape to genital mutilation. They have since built a sustainable camp, and make a relatively steady income for themselves (almost unheard of in that region) by selling jewelry to tourists.

To the West, roughly on the border of The Central African Republic and The Democratic Republic of Congo (The Brazzaville Region, to be more precise) there is a tribe who identifies themselves as The People of the Forest; known to outsiders as the Aka tribe. Within this culture there is no such thing a traditionally male or female roles. Women are just as likely as their male counterparts to hunt, make decisions, and manage household resources; while men are more than willing to mind the house, cook, and look after the children. According to a study done by Professor Barry Hewlett, an American Anthropologist, men are within reach of their infants 47% of the time: that is to say, more than within any other society on Earth. Though this culture would be better described as egalitarian than matriarchal, their parenting tendencies make them worth noting.

The Mosuo Tribe is a great example of a traditional matriarchal society. Not only are women entitled to ownership of land, control of finances, and full rights to their children, they are responsible almost exclusively for decision-making within the tribe. Located in Tibet, Mosuo women engage in a system referred to as “Walking Marriage.” When a girl turns 13 she is allowed to take as many lovers as she chooses from within the tribe. The resulting children remain with the mother and her family, and refer to the men of the tribe (regardless of their genetic relationship) as “uncle”. The society is matrilineal, and property is passed down through each generation to women.

St. Kate’s goal is to groom women to be powerful leaders as well as helpers. In my opinion these stories of successful matriarchal-type societies in cultures different than our own only further solidifies the validity of women’s desire to obtain equality within our own culture.

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