Traditional patriarchal societies, which have been prevalent throughout the world for many centuries, are known to many of us. In a patriarchal society, the father is the main owner of a property and the head of a household. Because of this, he is viewed as the leader of a family, along with corresponding male-dominated cultural norms. I explained how a typical patriarchal culture runs elsewhere.
What Do We Know About Matriarchal Cultures?
One may believe that it is the only possible way of social organization and family structure that men are predisposed to be in a dominant position. However, it is not true. Over human history, many societies in the world were matriarchal. Some of them are still ruled this way. Matriarchal societies have different cultural systems of gender relations. In a matriarchal society, the mother is the person in charge of the household and the head of the family. I explained how a typical matriarchal culture runs elsewhere. In another article, I presented three matriarchal cultures of today in Asian societies. Sarah Madaus, an editorial fellow at Town & Country, gave a brief description of a few matriarchal cultures around the world.
Let us consider the examples of the Akan people in West Africa and the Umoja community in East Africa, which, like several other African tribes, have matriarchal cultures.
The Akan Matriarchal Culture of West Africa
The Akan people of West Africa are the largest ethnic group in Ghana. Their social organization is matrilineal. The Akan live in matriclans. The term “matrilineal” refers to kinship that is passed down through the maternal line.
The Akan people have a matrilineal system of inheritance. This social system of tribal organization is based on the Akan traditional cultural beliefs. According to them, a child is related to the mother by blood and related to the father by spirit. Therefore, in the family relations between the mother, the child, and the father, the father is the stranger and outsider.
The matriclan is the central pillar upon which the Akan people have constructed their social order. Matriclan was founded by women, as one can imagine from the name of this social unit. Their politics, money, wealth, inheritance, identity, and major decisions are all discussed within the matriclan.
It is important to note, however, that within the Akan matriclan, men do in fact hold positions of authority and leadership in some issues of social life. Nevertheless, women are in queen mother roles among the Akan people in Ghana.
The Umoja Matriarchal Culture of East Africa
The Umoja tribal community is a recent development of matriarchal culture. The matriarchal community of Umoja village is located in Kenya, a country in East Africa. It is a modern, all-female matriarchal village that was established in the early 1990s as a sanctuary to shelter homeless female survivors of violence against women and young girls running from forced marriages. The name of Umoja is derived from the Swahili word for “unity.”
Women who have been victims of sexual or other forms of gender-based abuse call this village their home. Men are not allowed to live there. Therefore, the Umoja tribe is a genuine “no man’s land.” Men are allowed to visit the village but not to live there. Only men who were raised in Umoja as children are permitted to sleep in the village. Women, children, and older people living in the community give tours to visitors and spread awareness of the villagers’ human rights.