Commentary: Why Kenyan women should start paying dowry
Thursday is club night at Ruiru Golf Club, situated along Thika superhighway. On club nights, golf club members play in a competition among themselves but guests are welcome. Most club nights are in the middle of the week, usually Wednesday. Some clubs shift the day to Tuesday or Thursday to accommodate neighboring clubs and increase attendance. Ruiru is an old club dating from 1921 going by the records hanging on the walls.
At this time of the year the course is quite dry but great efforts are being made to harness water and use it to irrigate the fairways and greens. Playing golf on this course at this time of the year is a test of endurance, a traumatic experience demanding counselling after 18 holes. Goofballs defy all the laws of physics. Can the captain please call me after the rains… But it was not the dry fairways and the old club house and the newly “cabroed” parking that caught my attention. It was something else very different.
All the caddies in our four ball (team of four) were women. I asked where the men caddies were at 7.30 am. The answer was, “probably drunk.” The truth may be different, but in most courses in Kenya, women are now competing with men for caddying, carrying the big bag and its clubs from pitching wedge to driver. The bag weighs more than 10kg, and is carried for about four hours.
If lucky, you carry it on a cart and get paid from Sh500- Sh2, 000 depending on the golf course and the generosity of your sponsor (the golfer). WOMEN LESS RISKY Why have women invaded a “profession” that was exclusively for men? Where are the men? Unemployment could be one factor but it’s more than meets the eyes. One golfer once told me he can never hire a male caddy. His argument was interesting.
“Men drink all the money you give them after caddying, women use it to feed their children or save it.” Without prejudice, lots of caddies are drunk in the morning; easy to explain because they are guaranteed a regular income. It so happens that most golfers stick to one caddy. The thought that men are denied caddying job because we think they are irresponsible scares me. That could be extended to other jobs, which amounts to discrimination.
Let’s stretch the truth further; most new private high schools are girls only. One proprietor told me that boys will burn their school. Men are missing in the job market and in school. In some universities in Kenya, they are outnumbered by women. Men are still dominant in STEM but that may not be long.
Men are reacting in expected ways, abusing drugs and crime. That makes their plight worse and starts a self-fulfilling prophecy. How else do they prove they are men? Noted that most prisoners are men and most victims of crime are men? I have no evidence but I suspect that given a choice between a man and a woman of the same qualifications, most employers would go for the woman; perceived as more loyal and less risky.
Noted most cashiers are women? The absence of men in school and job market means there is a shortage of quality marriage men in the market. A quality man is defined as economically endowed, with a steady job or income, and possibly earning more than the potential mate. If he has excess cash to “sponsor,” his perceived quality goes a notch higher.
Kenya is competing with America’s Deep South where quality men are rare. Lots of young beautiful well educated career ladies in Kenya cannot get quality men to marry them. I’m told Nigerians and Mzungus are filling the void, but they are not enough and are hard to get. Our ladies react by saying we are not romantic, we are old fashioned and we are not oxygen. But the truth is that the supply and demand of quality men does not match.
While supply of quality men is down, for quality women it’s up, thanks to 2010 constitution and societal concern for women; men are left to fend for themselves. The question for economists is how to balance this market? One simple solution is to reverse the roles and let Kenyan women pay dowry for men.
Once men realise that, they will upgrade themselves through education, personal hygiene, avoid crime, and be responsible. Dowry is standardised in most communities but there are bonuses depending on the “behaviour “of the wife. If the wife is respectable, hardworking, and rarely “sits on you,” you are likely to pay more visits to the in laws, where you rarely go empty handed.
That would apply to men too. Radical? Why not try and see how it works? We could find more boys schools coming up and more responsible men in the marriage market. That will be good for our families and the economy in the long run.
To Kenyan mothers and their daughters, would you pay dowry for a good man?