Dowry & Bride Price 💰

Is the tradition of bride price and dowry important or outdated?

On this episode, I unpack the traditional custom of dowry and bride price, these two terms are often used interchangeably and refer to money, property, or other forms of wealth paid by a groom or his family to the parents of the woman he is about to marry.  For many Pan-African millennials, whether or not we understand why, we still adhere to the practice due to our parent’s instruction or expectations, but I ask, what reason will we give our next generation to continue these customs if we only vaguely understand them ourselves? I talk to elders, millennials, plus single, engaged and married couples about their thoughts on dowry and bride price, and whether it’s an important or outdated tradition. 

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How many cows? 

From a young age I’ve been aware of my equity as a woman when it comes to how much I would be worth when it’s time to marry. As a teen, my elders and family members would banter whilst pointing out my physical features before saying “Eh, this one? Our daughter is very beautiful and she will fetch us lots of cows”. I wasn’t offended and at that age, actually I thought it was quite flattering that I was a such a catch 😏.

Now in my 30’s, I’m becoming more aware of my location in society as a Black African woman and feminist, soon to be married into another traditional African family. As such, I’m exploring my own traditions and asking questions about the practice of dowry and bride price, questions I believe not enough of us ask, and challenge.

A generational knowledge gap?

Prior to the recording, I ran an anonymous Facebook poll asking whether bride price and dowry was outdated or important. It was almost an even split with 52% of people saying it’s outdated whilst 48% felt it to be important. Interestingly, no-one who felt it was outdated explained why, whilst, the minority were very vocal about its importance.

My take-out from this mini-market research is that many Pan-African millennials see some of our African practices as lacking in relevance and there’s an obvious generational knowledge gap which can almost guarantee the extinction of our cultural practices unless we learn how to make it relevant and important to the next generation. Thank you for all your comments and feedback on this episode, keep em' coming...

Louisa OlafuyiComment