So the Seychelles is, I have slowly come to understand, one of the few remaining matriarchal societies on earth. Or at least one of the last countries to define itself as such. Oxford dictionary defines a matriarchy as a system of society or government ruled by women or a woman. Here we have a male president and a male majority national assembly. But what makes the Seychelles a matriarchy is that women, despite not being represented in leadership government, take care of pretty much everything else.
There are men around, selling fish, working in construction, acting as security guards for hotels their presence on a daily basis is minimal. It's women at the supermarket cashiers, women sweeping the streets, women at the airport desks, women at the insurance claims counter, women in the souvenir shops, women at the banks, women serving in the restaurants, women at the licensing office, women at the immigration desk, women cooking at the takeaways, women at the TV and Wireless office.. and as Matthew noted it's young women being put through high school (70%girls at VISP school). Women hold almost all the administrative, service, tourism and education jobs.
So several questions come to mind. Where are all the men? Should I assume that they are all home with the babies, running the household? Or are all babies in daycare? If so from what age? Why are young boys not being educated through to A-Levels like the girls? If the women are the ones being educated and put forward to "run the country" then why is that not reflected in government?
Now, luckily I know better then to go about asking these sorts of questions to my new local acquaintances. Gender roles and societal norms are culturally sensitive issues and I certainly do not want to ruffle any feathers. But I am curious. How does a matriarchal society work in favour of women and a healthy family balance? Especially in a country where marriage is not the norm and single mothers are unfortunately very common. In European countries where women are participating in the workforce, and rightly so, I feel that there is a growing expectation for men to take part in family chores and to ensure gender equality overall. Are there the same set of expectations for men here? Why do I feel like i'm the only one here who has the option to stay home and raise her child?
For now at least I am so very grateful that my husband and I were able to make this work. Staying at home is not a luxury, in fact being able to have this life style comes as a direct consequence of us refusing to have certain luxuries which have become so common place in 21st century consumer culture. I am lucky too, as an early years specialist and outdoor educator I relish the opportunity to watch and guide my little one as he makes sense of the world around him. I believe that by having him at home I can provide him with the love, structure and experiences which he needs in order to help lay the foundations for becoming a well rounded and confident little boy.
Staying at home is my full time job - and yes of course sometimes I long for stimulating adult conversations and a break from the monotony of house chores and nappies!