The Price She Paid: A reflection on marriage as a commodity

by Joseph Elunya




Joseph Elunya explores the custom of bride price, where a payment is made to the head of a family, in exchange for a daughter’s hand in marriage.

The value of the goods exchanged can be perceived to reflect the value and worth of the woman.  The tradition is still prevalent in some cultures, including that of his home country of Uganda.


Growing up, she must have loved looking at the beautiful sight of the sun, setting down on her village from atop those rocks, where young girls of her time escorted their mothers to dry millet and cassava.

She must have liked the traditional folk songs and stories shared by elderly women, as they winnow the millet and the beauty of looking at the sun setting, as the wind blows the husks.

She must have believed like children of her age, that she would continue watching the sun dance and disappear behind those rocks, in the coming days, weeks and years, as she grows into a full woman.

But she was never to enjoy this beautiful part of teenage life, as she was forced by tradition to leave and go to a distant land, in exchange for bride price as required by her parents.

Ten cows was not her value, but that’s what was settled for and after four hours of tense negotiations, the deal was sealed.

To the parents, it was a moment of happiness, as the cows would be passed to one of the sons, to also use as bride price.

Before leaving, they warned her that marriage is about perseverance. They also made it clear that they would no longer entertain her presence back home, as she now belonged to another clan.

This perseverance made her to go through untold suffering, as the husband turned her into a punching bag. Every time he returned home drunk, he would taunt her, calling her a lazy woman not worth the ten cows he paid.

In spite of what she goes through, thoughts of her children suffering under the care of a co-wife makes Jennifer stick around like a destitute with nowhere to take refuge.


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