WHEN A WOMAN ‘PAYS FOR HER HEAD’

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As a result of the economic downturn in the world today, many young men are really finding it tough to pay the traditional bride price and other items to meet up the requirements for marriage. Some lucky ones who have parents who are comfortable have been able to struggle to meet up; but for many whose parents are poor and without any kind of economic support, marriage has remained a mere ‘heart wish’ for them. Life can indeed be brutish and short. Little wonder that the cases of rape have increased astronomically in our societies.

A friend of mine has started a very interesting campaign, controversial even; it seeks to transfer the traditional male responsibility of paying of dowry, a prerequisite for marriage, to a joint one. (‘How possible is that?’ Did I hear you say?) Well, I also consider it quite odd; but like everything that is against a people’s culture, it takes a whole lot to overturn tradition, and I still cannot get my head around it, which is why I will really like to get opinions of women from everywhere.

In Africa, and in many other cultures around the world, a marriage ceremony is preceded by the paying of bride price; what is known as payment ‘on the head’ of the young woman. Usually, in some cultures, the money can be a small amount which is paid in symbolic gesture to the parents of the bride in appreciation of their years of care and nurture of the girl till she becomes a beautiful, matured and responsible young woman. And, in some cases, when the young woman is highly educated, then the price becomes very high and the demands numerous. There are different varieties of these traditional requirements in different parts of the world.

However, the reality of our life in this globalised world of today is changing a lot of ideas, overturning entrenched beliefs, and remodelling many traditional systems. In fact, in many cultures around the world, the exigencies of daily lives and the harsh economic realities have made the idea of faith or loyalty to any form of tradition a mere heart wish. Thus, people would rather focus on what is realistic and absolutely important; in fact, as long as ‘the end justifies the means’; nobody cares about what that ‘means’ is. It is in line with this background that some young men, like my friend, are now campaigning for a whole new idea on dowry payment.

Now, this is a knotty issue for all traditionalists to consider; for a woman to have a share in paying her own bride price? What are some of the fall outs of such for the future? What kind of leadership (as a husband) would such a man give his family? As an African who appreciates his culture, will he be able to confront his family and beat his chest that he is a REAL man? Questions, questions, questions… When I table the issue in my group on facebook, a ‘sister’ has this to say: ‘Wat rubbish pls I strongly tink it shd be discouraged,we re expected to help our men but pay our own dowry is simply devilish and a plot from hell.’ Can this particular new idea overturn our culture? Only time will tell.

About author

Kemi Wale-Olaitan

Kemi is a retired broadcaster from the service of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria; while in service, she had her interest in women issues and had interviews with several notable women in the course of her duty as a producer in the service of the Federal government. Her interest in broadcasting was informed by her creative writing prowess; she has been very active in creative writing since her undergraduate days, and she has written a few fictional works in form of short stories and novel. Some of her short stories have appeared in anthologies of Short stories. Kemi was also very active in the establishment of the Women Writers Association of Nigeria (WRITA) and she served on its first Executive Council.

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