By Bernice Ou-Yang

Matriarchy is a system of society or government ruled by a woman or many women.  In the modern world, there are around six matriarchal societies that exist: the Mosuo, the Minangkabau, the Akan, the Bribri, the Garo and the Nagovisi.

The Mosuo, probably the most famous matriarchal society, live near the border of Tibet in the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.  The Mosuo women are the ones that handle business decisions, and the children take the mother’s name instead of the fathers.  They also have “walking marriages.”  It’s not really a marriage; the woman literally chooses her man by walking into his house.  The couple does not live together and the father has little to no involvement in childraising.  In fact, the children might not even know the identity of their father.

The largest known matriarchal society today is the Minangkabau of West Sumatra, Indonesia.  They strongly believe that the mother is the most important person in the society and even made tribal laws requiring all clan properties to be passed on from mother to daughter.  In this society, even though women ruled the domestic realm and men took the political and spiritual leadership roles, they both are on equal footing. After marriage, every woman gets her own room.  Although the husband may sleep with her, they have to leave early to have breakfast at his mother’s house.

The Akan are mainly located in Ghana.  Although men had originally held all the leadership roles, the females founded the clan.  Now, everything is passed on from mother to daughter and men are still expected to provide for the family.

The Bribri are located in the Talamanca canton in the Limón province of Costa Rica.  Just like the other matriarchal societies. Only women are allowed to inherit land and money.

For the Garo society, the youngest daughter gets the properties. Usually, the youngest daughter has an arranged marriage. For their marriage tradition, the guy runs from the girl, forcing the girl to catch him. This can go on forever until one side gives up.

The Nagovisi are located in South Bougainville. The society is divided into two matrilineal moieties. The women took the leadership roles, but they took the most pride in tending to the land they owned. In this society, if a man helps a woman with her garden, sleeps with her and is often seen together with her, those two are considered married.


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