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The Kenyan woman and dowry

26 February 2015, 14:22 Shakila Alivitsa

Nairobi - You know, with the rise of divorce rates and more people that I see in the limelight being estranged form their spouses, I have to ask myself a lot of questions. One of them is on dowry.

A long time ago it was mandatory for one to be paid for a bride price and also, before people got married, someone had to ask someone for permission before any nuptials took place. Our generation on the other hand likes to call itself the kizazi kipya meaning that we want to or rather like to play by our own kind of rules. No one asks anyone for permission, we want to marry so and so from the tribe that the parents are do not like. We do not ask for permission to move in together but just surprise everyone and  we decide whether we want to be paid for a bride price or not. Which I am sure grates some parents in a wrong way.

Some new generation parent looks at it like someone paying for his daughter while another sees it as the groom paying his contribution to what is due for the parents having brought up the girl. Good education from the right type of schools, growing in the right suburbia and what not.  I once heard a story where the groom could not afford to pay for his girlfriend’s bride price so the parents did not want to give her away to him. So the girl offered to pay for her own bride price; I do not think that that went down well with them either because they probably viewed it as still coming from their pocket.

I do not see a lot of cowsheds in Nairobi, Most people have never even stepped foot in their own rural homes, some have one home they know of because the grandparents either settled in Nairobi or they passed and now there is just the parents. So when the cows and goats are brought in where are they going to go? If it is not going to be cows and money instead, is that not like sort of buying and whet is the price tag that is allocated to you as the woman.


I try to sit down and decide what my father will ask for; money or cows. I know I cannot step into this manly business and tell my father and uncles what to do; that will incur censure from them. Though God forbid they decide they only want maybe half a million shillings only, making me worth only that amount. You walk around in Nairobi and see a lot of women talk about how priceless they are, how high maintenance they are, they can only go to certain places only but wait until the father asks for the dowry. How much do you think your male folks have placed as a price tag on your head? Even worse, I have this male cousin he started counting heads of cattle ever since we all hit puberty. We are a large female household, no brothers in sight. So this guy would boast about how he was going to get a lot of head of cattle from all of us. SMH! Worse still it was what was going to pay for his bride.


I would be d***ed if I ever allowed such as scenario to take place. It will be like I am the pail that fetches the milk that someone else eventually drinks from. SMH.


What if she settles with a foreigner, we all know he did not jet in with any cows? So, do the parents just swallow the bitter pill and give her away without anything, or what happens.To the married folks too, does the bride’s family return the cattle when either a) they divorce b) they separate or c) she is ‘barren’? As archaic as the barren thing sounds it still happens, at times, the whole blame is put on the woman when she is not at fault. Other times, they are well founded when another wife comes along with a junior in tow. So in such a case what happens to the bride price? All this questions; I need to sit down and talk to my old folks find out what they are planning.

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