Our four young Pathfinders are still in Uganda at the Kasese Humanist Primary School and they are learning a great deal about the cultural differences between that country and the United States. After finding out that men are not allowed to pour water or serve food to women, they learned how dowries operate in that country:
“But what about dowries? Do men pay the dowries there?”
Wendy and I answered that no, men do not pay dowries in the United States, and that our fathers would probably reject a dowry if one was offered.
From what the women told us, there aren’t any arranged marriages in Uganda; the women and men choose each other. Shortly after deciding that they should marry, the fiance meets the parents and asks for a price.The man returns with the payment at a second meeting, and then the couple is married shortly afterwards.
The wife then spends the rest of her life paying her husband back for her dowry.
One of the women said that there must be a lot more love between spouses in the United States. She said that the dowry and paying the dowry back erases the love that was once there.
I think the women realized that dowries are unfair, but I don’t think they could imagine a society where dowries don’t exist.
And this is how change happens. Not because Michelle and Wendy made powerful arguments against such a manifestly unjust and sexist system, but merely because the women they were talking to realized that it doesn’t have to be that way, that there are places where it is different.