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Bride Price: Demanding your worth

Debate has raged on in Kenya about one Rita Muchiri who dared name her bride price. The radio stations have been pressing their point, the bloggers and online networks have made fun of her. But have we really thought twice about what she’s saying?

In today’s society, Rita is taking a bold step and placing a value on herself, speaking in what seems to be out of turn.

The backlash that this has brought on is not surprising. After all, this is a generation that is fighting against ‘age-old’ customs such as bride price that are thought to be demeaning and that ‘lower’ the status of the female. We went to ‘Beijing’ and came back demanding equality and equal rights – and yes we did get them. However, does that mean that a woman is not allowed to demand for dowry?

Rita is probably being just realistic. Her parents are bound to have spent that and much more to make her the (assertive!) woman that she is. And in today’s economy, who wouldn’t want a return on their investment. Yes, investment. A girl has been taken as an investment from age old, other than in some cultures like Indian. Most African societies held women in high esteem because they were equivalent to a certain amount of wealth. And while that meant that the woman is taken as a piece of property, it was up to the parents to nurture and bring her up to the highest quality.

What’s so wrong about asking for dowry? Think of it from the parenting perspective. Yes, you want your child to turn out right. So you will pour in all the cash and resources you have to make her life not just comfortable, but have her access everything you think she needs in life. And in Kenya’s economy, that will certainly put you back by a few millions. Remember, spend money to make money?

The only wrong that Rita has done is to come out and boldly declare her stand on the issue. It’s not a surprise that some families demand no less than a million bob to let their daughters go. Before we go pointing fingers, think of how much your husband or your husband to be has forked over in an attempt to win over the affectations of your family. That ‘fridge’ he bought your mom, that ‘club membership’ he offered your dad. The uncles and aunts and ‘elders’ of the family who pegged the price on their girl before her wedding, the pretty gifts he brought over after a trip abroad for your siblings and extended family, the ‘soda’ money he had to pay at the gate for you to be allowed out of the house on your wedding day; all that costs money not dirt.

And it’s not like the men don’t put value on their women either. Think of how many men have told their wives that they will ‘provide’. In return, the wife is expected to be submissive, docile, look good and compliment the man in any way possible. The man is simply making an investment in his wife/partner. He knows that money will make things in her life possible, and she in return will make his life easier. You might call her a gold digger; she will say she’s just being realistic. After all, who doesn’t want a lavish lifestyle?

Paying dowry isn’t evil. Just that Rita asked for cash doesn’t make her ‘backward’. She pegged a price on herself, and like Bobby sang, it’s her prerogative. It possibly makes her the most honest woman we have in this country.

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