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Estonia, Estonian

Today, Kihnu shelters only five hundred souls, compared with seven thousand during the Soviet occupation of Estonia, from 1944 to 1991. While men were going off to the sea, the women took over men's jobs, such as working in the fields. Since the mid-nineteenth century, the women assumed control of the community’s affairs and therefore became guardians of the island. A secular cultural heritage that their isolation has preserved. In 2008, UNESCO classified Kihnu's cultural practices as intangible heritage of humanity.

If men are now more present on the island, it is always their mothers, wives or daughters who manage education, culture, community life, and especially the craft traditions, which thanks to them are preserved. Tourist guides sell Kihnu as the "island of women" much to the dismay of the interested parties, who reject this image of Epinal. They recognize having a leading decision-making role, but their men are essential. "Men's wages ensure our economic base. That's why women take care of social organization on a daily basis“, explains Mare Mätas, a key figure on the island. The island derives most of its income from fishing and tourism.

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