Nairobi News


Dear ladies, here’s how your parents are low-key preparing you for ‘dowry exchange’

By Winnie Mabel February 26th, 2024 2 min read

Life has it that many girls start dreaming of their weddings as early as age 10. Enchanted by the idea of finding their prince charming, they envision themselves in princess-style gowns, perhaps even donning glass slipper shoes. This fantasy often extends into their teenage years, where they may create vision boards and elaborate plans for their big day.

In modern society, it’s widely accepted for girls to dream of elaborate weddings as long as these dreams align with appropriate age and financial timing. However, some traditional cultures take this a step further with parents actively planning for their children’s future marriages from a young age.

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While arranged marriages are less common today, some parents still instill qualities of a good spouse in their children to make them more appealing to potential partners. Girls, in particular, may receive this grooming from a young age. Here are some ways parents use subtle ways to groom their daughters for ‘dowry exchange’ while they are still young without making them wise about it:

  1. In Kenya, there are at least 42 ethnic tribes and in each, there are traditional ways in which girls and young ladies are taught to be good women pre-marriage. They are subtly taught about what culture and traditions expect of them in relation to marriage and the importance of dowry in marriage. This can be through large family gatherings where older aunties hold ‘light’ conversations with the younger ladies or when a grandparent convenes a sitting with her marriageable grand-daughters to talk about her life’s experiences with marriage.
  2. Young girls and woman are assigned household responsibilities such as hosting guests, preparing food and handling other household related duties as a means to gauge their capability of running their own homes in the future. The better they are at it, the easier it would be to handle dowry negotiation talks if she meets a man. If she is not good at managing a household, she is subtly trained on how to do it.
  3. Modesty and mannerisms are also subtly cultivated in these young girls and women ahead of marriage. They are taught about dressing decently, being obedient and behaving well whether they are alone or with others because they don’t know who could be watching and eyeing them. In some cultures, these are qualities often valued in a bride.
  4. Suddenly, a young woman will begin being encouraged to spend time with other women she rarely shared circles with. And majority of these women would either be married or are sadly widows. This is because these women ‘have what it takes’ to get and stay married until death did them part, and their life’s experiences could be valuable lessons for this young unmarried woman. Also, being directed to spend this time with these women is a subtle hint that it is time for the young woman to get married- her time is apparently running out.