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This study explores the relationship between outmigration and gender roles in two villages in North Tapanuli, on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. In a symbolic sense, land and women have always represented security to Toba Batak men as they travelled in search of a livelihood. The main purpose of this study is to throw light on the options open to the women staying behind and the adjustments they make, as well as their reasons for making them. The approach followed is an anthropological one. It combines an analysis of actor-oriented perceptions and strategies with an insight into the structural forces that formed the context of migration as it developed from the late nineteenth century through the colonial period until today. Janet Rodenburg is an anthropologist specializing in gender studies in Southeast Asia.