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Volume :4 Issue : 14 1978      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

STATUS OF WOMEN AMONG PASTORAL NOMADS

Auther : By D.G. Reza Fazel

 

In this paper I have assessed the social and political status of women in Boyr Ahmad society from evidence of their activities in a variety of spheres which can be summarized in the following way:

a)     Among the Boy Ahmad women occupy a dominant position in the domestic economy.  Their almost complete control over the production and allocation of economic resources has brought them poser and authority within the private sphere of the household.

b)     A combination of kinship ties, many shared interests, and contractual labor relations among the households in the nomadic camp have led to the development of an intimate, informal association of women.  The resultant network of interdependencies and loyalties has made the public expression of the woman’s domestic power and authority possible.  This “conversion” between the private and public spheres is further facilitated through access to vital and strategic information.

c)      The amount of power, authority and prestige of a tribeswoman is proportionate to her social rank.  The women of the ruling cite derive their poser from two distinct sources: the first one is inherent in the institutions of polygyny, partrilincal succession to office and, exogamous unions designed to enlarge the number of allies – all implying male dominance.  The second is their control over the allocation of vast quantities of wealth collected annually through taxation.  Either of the two areas can be manipulated to bring about political success or failure for a leader.

d)     Recent modernizing efforts by the Iranian administration have deeply altered the structure of leadership and perforce the traditional roles of the upper class women.

 

It is now possible to generalize that in Boyr Ahmad society women’s power and authority are independent of formal inheritance of property and office; and, that this power rests upon two interrelated principles:

 

1)    their central role in the production of goods destines not only for private consumption but also for market exchange, hospitality and the tribal levies;

2)    management and control over the allocation of goods and resources used as bride price and for the economic support of leadership.  In sum, women’s high status and decision making power in this society derive from the social significance of their economic and allocative roles.

 

Since many features of the economy and social organization here presented seem to have a wide distribution among the Zagros pastoralists, namely, the Kurd, Lur and Bakhtiari, it is reasonable to suggest that in these societies women also enjoy a considerable degree of power and authority extending beyond the confines of the household.  Cultural differences, however, may be reflected in the differing modes of articulation between the private and the public domains.  The conclusions drawn from the Boyr Ahmad study can be tested as hypotheses in these and possibly other pastoral societies in the Middle East.  Such research may be profitably focused upon the extent of women’s participation in subsistence activities, the degree to which the importance of women’s economic role extends beyond the private sphere and cultural arrangements and strategies where by women complement, manipulate and influence the formal power structures in the public arena. 

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