I spent last week visiting some community based organizations in Yunnan, and stayed in the Old City in Lijiang, far north in Yunnan Province. Yunnan is known for its many ethnic minorities, many of which are matriarchal. I find the dynamics in the villages to be different from those in the north which are traditionally strongly patriarchal. There seems to be much more consultation in the families and the women have greater say in major decisions.
The villages we are working in are primarily from the Naxi minority, though one village has 8 different minorities — due to somewhat forced relocation to make way for a power station. Its quite a complex situation and the village has a history of conflict, but I think the project has a chance to bring a much greater level of cooperation and harmony among the village residents. Change is already being seen among the youth in the village. In fact the picture of the library below is a service project done by a group of younger youth, age 10-14 or so, in the village. They decided to create a reading room/library for the entire village, got permission and the use of a room in the Village Council’s building, as well as some donated furniture, and collected the books themselves. The older youth read to the younger youth and children, children come to study themselves, and the youth groups now include youth from all the minorities. Reading this sitting in the west, it may seem like a minor project, but in the context of village life in China, it is a major accomplishment, not only at the level of organization and planning for youth so young, but in terms of their confidence and ability to speak to village leadership.
Below are some pictures of Lijiang and some of the villages I visited. It was cold! You can see the snow-covered mountains in the distance in one of the pictures. You can also see how beautiful the old town in Lijiang is. Because the traditional architecture has been preserved so beautifully and the entire region is picturesque, it attracts many tourists. I highly recommend a visit if you are visiting China!