CANDID TALK

what we don't say out loud.

…OF WOMEN AND DOWRY PRICES…

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Being a woman has its pros and cons. Right after birth the perception of beauty and fragility is created in us. The world favours women more than men (I stand corrected). You find even in times of war women and children are evacuated to safety first. In domestic violence still women are heard more than men. It’s basically a woman’s world.

 

Women celebrate two holiwomendays in a year ‘The world women’s day’ and ‘Mother’s Day’. Whether by extension or by birth all women are mothers. You find all social media displaying the various events held in women’s favour globally. Mother Nature is also referred to as ‘she’ – the “Giver of life”. The earth itself is referred to in a feminine form. All that gives life is referred to as mother, she, her and many other synonyms that are feminine.

I think women rule the world and that no man has ever done anything that a woman either hasn’t allowed him to do or encouraged him to do.”

                                                        ― Bob Dylan

African traditions of marriage allows a man to appreciate the bride in many forms depending on the customs held in Kenya most customs On the set date the groom and his family, along with invited guests show up early at the brides house. The grooms’ family sits on one side, while the other bride’s family sits on the other side facing each other. Elders from both family begin the marriage ceremony with a prayer and introductions. The groom’s family begins by presenting the dowry and all the other items on the list one, by one. At each stage, the items are checked to make sure everything asked on the list is being presented. Negotiation is possible if the groom’s family feels too much is being asked of them. The bride is not present in all of these proceedings. The groom, although present, does speak in all of these proceedings as all the speaking and negotiation is done on his behalf by the designated spokesperson from his family.

Once everything has been presented to the bride’s family, the bride would then be brought into the gathering. Because a decoy can be used to “tease” the groom, the groom is asked to verify if this is indeed his bride. Once he confirms, she is asked three times by her father if she agrees to marry the groom. She is asked if they should accept the dowry and accompanying gifts from the groom’s family. When she agrees, then the groom will slide the ring onto her fingers and kiss and hug her. An elder presents a bible to both the groom and bride as a symbol of how important religion should be in their married life. Prayers are said and blessings are given. The married couple is now congratulated and each elder in the room offers marriage advice to the new couple. Once all of this is done there is a huge celebration reception where food & drinks are served. There is lots of music and dancing till nightfall

Recently a Kenyan lawyer has graced the social media with his dowry offer to President Obama‘s daughter, Malia; 50 cows, 70 sheep and 30 goats in return for her hand in marriage. Felix Kiprono Matagei, who is also a student at Oxford University according to his Facebook profile, offered the livestock in order to fulfil his ‘dream’ of marrying Malia.He added that he has been ‘interested’ in Obama’s daughter since his first presidential campaign in 2008, when she was just 10 years.

In 2000, Kenyan journalist Godwin Chepkurgor wrote to then-president Bill Clinton offered Hillary Clinton 40 goats and 20 cows in return for daughter Chelsea’s hand in marriage.Chepkurgor, who was already married to childhood sweetheart Grace at the time, said Chelsea appeared to be a ‘beautiful, disciplined and well-natured woman. ‘Accordance with African tradition. After a pause, Clinton said, “My daughter is her own person, very independent, so I will convey this very kind offer. “In a weird turn of events, in August 2014, Chepkurgor was killed by an elephant without every receiving a response from Chelsea. He was attacked by a herd while on assignment for the magazine. When a bull elephant that scooped him up with its trunk and threw him in the air, impaling him on sticks that pierced his stomach

In Uganda, as in many other African nations, the custom of the groom or his family paying a sum of money or property to the parents of the bride upon a marriage has long been considered a cultural “appreciation”. Some groups in Uganda also gift banana wine, traditional dress, meat, and even vegetables and paraffin, according to local women’s rights group Mifumi. Launched a landmark case seeking to have the practice declared optional by a court.

Attitudes are very slowly shifting. In June 2014, the eastern Ugandan district of Butaleja passed its own law making it a crime to demand payment of or refund of bride price, or to deny a woman burial on account of non-payment of bride price by the man. Another area, Tororo, has repealed a 1964 by-law that legalised the payment.

The Maasai people of Kenya grow up with children of their own age and normally form relationships with these people. However, in marriage women are given to a man they do not know who is much older than themselves. The bride packs all her belongings and is dressed in her finest jewelry. At the marriage ceremony the father of the bride spits on the brides head and breasts as a blessing and then she leaves with her husband walking to her new home she never looks back fearing that she will turn to stone. This can be a very sad experience for the bride, who is 13-16 years old and may walk a long way to get to her new house. In order to ward off bad luck sometimes the women of the groom’s family will even insult the bride.

The Swahili of Kenya bathes brides in sandalwood oils and tattooed henna designs on her limbs. A women elder (somo)gives instructions to the bride on how to please her husband. Sometimes the woman (somo) will even hide under the bed in case there are any problems! In many cities, situated outside the coast of Kenya, Dar es Salaam & Zanzibar lives groups of Swahili Muslims. In this communities the weddings can be going on for a whole week with a lot of festivities consisted of singing, dancing and food. But these festivities are celebrated separate for men and women. After the “real” wedding the bride is shown in public.

This ceremony is always taking place the evening after the wedding and it is the grand finale of the passage rite, in which the young bride enters the married women’s world. Today this particularly ceremony has become more in focus than some years ago when the ‘kuingia ndani ‘(the entry) was the main attraction. It is a ceremony when the groom is walking down the streets to meet his bride and then complete first phase of the wedding. This session has become more popular of various reasons, but the main reason is the fact that it is an opportunity for women to meet and have a good time without their husbands. When they enter this party they all take off their black veils and underneath they have beautiful dresses and wonderful haircuts etc. Another problem with it is that many families almost ruin themselves just to be able to have this party for their daughters. The musicians and food cost plenty of money. Sometimes the mother of the bride, female relatives and neighbours have to help out with the food and devote themselves to make the food some days before the ceremony.

For the Samburu people marriage is a unique series of elaborate ritual. Great importance is given to the preparation of gifts by the bridegroom (two goatskins, two copper earrings, a container for milk, and a sheep) and of gifts for the ceremony. The marriage is concluded when a bull enters a hut guarded by the bride’s mother, and is killed.

The Himba people of Namibia kidnap a bride before the ceremony and dress her in a leather marriage headdress. After the ceremony she is brought into the house where the family tells her what her responsibilities will be as the wife and then anoint her with butterfat from cows. This shows that she has been accepted into the family

Generally with time the traditions ‘harshness’ has subside paving in slowly the entrance of the western culture. In the future the traditions might be kept aside as the new generation get less and less time to embrace African local traditions. My take in all this customs is that in fact lust and greed for money has cropped in the proceedings making the whole process commercialised. Times have become tough even for the new couple to survive economically after this procedures has been met amidst appealing the elders and family members. Am sure the procedures we created with good intentions for both side of the groom and the bride but evil has crept in it and other selfish interest have surfaced. As long as the two adult’s consents into the engagement ahead of them the elders should provide their blessing and let the duo live. After all friendship for the two families has just began.

 

Author: Kate Mwamba

Financial and lifestyle blogger

2 Comments

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