Does the Matrilineality Make a Difference? Land, Kinship and Women’s Empowerment in Bobonaro District, Timor-Leste


Narciso, Vanda Jesus Santos, and Pedro Damião Sousa Henriques. 2020. “Does the Matrilineality Make a Difference? Land, Kinship and Women’s Empowerment in Bobonaro District, Timor-Leste.” Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy 25 (2): 348–70.

Authors: Vanda Jesus Santos Narciso, Pedro Damião Sousa Henriques


This article investigates the roles that land rights and kinship norms have on rural women’s empowerment in the Bobonaro district of Timor-Leste. To this aim, a case study was carried out, using a questionnaire survey to compare three kinship groups (harmonic matrilineal, matrilineal and patrilineal). The land rights considered are ownership and control. The measurement of empowerment is based on three questions relating to household decision-making. Women’s autonomy and participation in decisions are also analyzed. The data presented show the importance of not only the ownership of land, but also effective and independent women’s land rights and the kinship system to women’s empowerment. Therefore, in order to contribute to gender equality, land policies should take gender and kinship into close consideration. 

Keywords: women, land, kinship, empowerment, Timor-Leste

Topics: Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Gender Hierarchies, Land Tenure, Rights, Land Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Oceania Countries: Timor-Leste

Year: 2020

© 2024 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at