K’ Ho minority women in their relationships with community & families
Oct 12th 2013.
Currently, the K’ho in Lam Dong is one of the tribes that have still strongly reserved matriarchy. This is the most interesting feature to attract tourists to discover the traditional cultural identity of this original people.
Visitors coming to K’ho village will find existence of traditional forms of social organization. That is, in the tribe, everyone has the same relationship to the mother’s blood. Families of one or a few matrilineal clans reside around the house of a female head of the clan, for by far, matriarchy is still maintained at the K’ho tribe.
With the K’ho’s “husband catching” custom, the girl’s family will be the dicisive factor in the marriage and marital residence. Children will bear the K’ho mother’s surname. With the K’ho traditions, women are the backbone of the family and in society, they are entitled to decision – making of all important things like engagements, weddings, funerals, house building, buying and selling precious items ….
According to K’ho community customary law, only women are entitled to inheritance. Before they die, the mothers will hand over their right of inheritance to the eldest daughter and the girl takes the responsibility to keep and preserve all the wealth from the big jars, the gongs to the family’s baskets. So, if unfortunately the wife died before the husband, but there is no one else in the wife’s family to marry the widow, then the husband must deliver all possessions, for instance, assets, houses, fields and gardens … to the wife’s family and go back to live with his mother or sister with empty hands, they must not live with their children, for the children will stay with the wife’s youngest sister or the wife’s mother. Conversely, if the husband dies before the wife, the widower has the right to remarry after holding the ceremony at the tomb of the deceased husband. Therefore, previously the man’s condition was symbolically compared in the K’ho proverb that says: “Live with sister and be human being, Stay with wife and be servant.”
But, in addition to the above – mentioned rights, in contrast to their rights, all housework is put on K’ho women’s shoulders , they must do everything in the home from pounding rice, drawing water and bringing it home, doing the housework, cooking, working at the fields, gathering firewood to fostering parents, rearing and educating children, and to engage in economic production activities…. So often at the age of 5-6, the girl was taught to fetch water and take care of her brothers and sisters, look after livestock and poultry …. And when they are 7 to 10 years old, the young gilrs may follow their parents to the fields to cultivate, pick vegetables, or gather firewood… Like some other matriarchical tribes, from 13 years of age, the girls can find a boyfriend and get married. In marriages, the groom’s parents are demanding in the future bride to have virtues, kind, nice, hard working, to know to weave cloths and clothing, pound rice, raise livestock, cook … In general, K’ho women are resourceful, after a day of hard work, every night they sit up very late, sitting at the loom to weave blankets, waistcloths, clothes … for husband and children. They are fully aware of their responsibilities, so, although they have to get up early in the morning and go to bed very late at night, , they stillbear it without a word of complaint to husband and children.
Today, in terms of customs, although the wives have more powers than their husbands, men are still respected. The couple treats each other on an equal basis. When there are important family matters to be resolved, the spouses must consult each other. Although the head of the family is the woman, the man always represents his wife and children in social interactions and is the main labor to feed the family. K’ho women are always aware of their role in family and society. Therefore, today many K’ho women are highly educated and have become successful entrepreneurs in the business world.
By Thanh Thanh